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A Onugktai, PrinUr amd B U MO ty p*, 
lit FulUm 8tr*t. 



• • • 

This abridgment of the author's larger work upon 
Isaiah* has been prepared in deference rather to the 
wishes of others than to his own judgment. He has al- 
ways desired and hitherto intended to defer reprinting it 
in any form, until he should have had the opportunity 
of thoroughly reviewing the whole subject, with the 
valuable aid to be derived from later expositions, criti- 
cisms, and discussions. But as this laborious process, 
which might possibly result in the re- writing of the whole 
work, is precluded for the present and perhaps forever 
by engrossing occupations of another kind, he no longer 
feels himself at liberty to disregard the double call which 
has long been made upon him, for a new impression of 
the commentary, and for such a reduction of its size as 
may render it accessible and useful to a larger class of 
readers. As these demands, although distinct in them- 
selves, have been made to coincide by the unexpected 
sale of the first edition which is now exhausted, he is 
willing to believe that both may, to some extent, be satis- 

• The Earlier Prophecies of Isaiah. New York, 1846. 8vo. The Later 
Prophecies of Isaiah. New York, 1847. 8vo. 


fied by the abridgment here presented to the public. He 
is only solicitous that it should not be misconceived as an 
intended or professed advance upon his former publica- 
tion, but indulgently received as an attempt to place it 
within the reach of those who, for any reason, have been 
hitherto unable to make use of it. To this course he has 
been the more easily reconciled, because his views have 
undergone no material change, and because he has the sat- 
isfaction of knowing that his book has proved acceptable, 
at least as a version and a verbal explanation, even to 
some who do not fully concur in his exegetical conclu- 
sions. If the work in its new form should meet with even 
a small share of the favour and success which have at- 
tended the kindred publication on the Psalms,* the au- 
thors expectations will be far exceeded. 

To those who are familiar with the larger work, a 
slight comparison will show that it has not been re- 
written but merely contracted, and that for the most part 
by simple omission. The rule of abridgment which has 
been adopted, although not perhaps applied with perfect 
uniformity, has been to retain only what was necessary 
to convey the author's view of the essential meaning, and 
to exclude what belonged merely to the history of the in- 
terpretation or the discussion of conflicting opinions. Of 
the meagerness and awkwardness too frequently resulting 
from this process, none can be more fully aware than 
the author and abridger ; but the hope is entertained that 
by a large proportion even of those readers who become 

* The Psalms Translated and Explained by J. A. Alexander. New York, 
1850. 8 vols. 12mo. 


acquainted with the work for the first time under its pres- 
ent disadvantages of form, these literary blemishes will 
be reckoned but a small price to be paid for wider circu- 
lation and a further contribution, however humble in 
degree and kind, to the just appreciation and correct 
interpretation of a difficult but eminently interesting 
and important part of Scripture. 

Function, New Jersey, April 16, 1851. 

Theological Seminary , 


■#• ♦ • » 

The gift of prophecy included that of foresight and predic- 
tion, but it included more. The prophet was inspired to reveal 
the will of God, to act as an organ of communication between 
God and man. The subject of the revelations thus conveyed 
was not and could not be restricted 4o the future. It embraced 
the past and present, and extended to those absolute and univer- 
sal truths which have no relation to time. This is what we 
should naturally expect in a divine revelation, and it is what we 
actually find it to contain. That the prophets of the old dis- 
pensation were not mere foretellers of things future, is apparent 
from their history as well as from their writings. It has been 
well said, that Daniel proved himself a prophet by telling Neb- 
uchadnezzar what he had dreamed, as much as by interpreting 
the dream itself ; that it was only by prophetic inspiration that 
Elijah knew what Gehazi had been doing ; and that the woman 
of Samaria very properly called Christ a prophet, because he 
told her all things that ever she did. In all these cases, and 
in multitudes of others, the essential idea is that of inspiration) 
its frequent reference to things still future being accidental, 
that is to say, not included in the uniform and necessary im j 
port of the terms. 

The restriction of these terms in modern parlance to the 
prediction of events still future has arisen from the fact that a 
large proportion of the revelations made in Scripture, and 
precisely those which are the most surprising and impressive, 



are of this description. The frequency of such revelations, and 
the prominence given to them, not in this modern usage merely, 
but in the word of God itself, admit of easy explanation. It is 
partly owing to the fact that revelations of the future would 
be naturally sought with more avidity, and treated with more 
deference, than any other by mankind in general. It is fur- 
ther owing to the fact that of all the kinds of revelation, this 
is the one which affords the most direct and convincing proof of 
the prophet's inspiration. The knowledge of the present or the 
paBt or of general truths might be imparted by special inspira- 
tion, but it might also be acquired in other ways ; and this 
possibility of course makes the evidence of inspiration thus 
afforded more complete and irresistible than any other. Hence 
the function of foretelling what was future, although but a part 
of the prophetic office, was peculiarly conspicuous and promi- 
nent in public view, and apt to be more intimately associated 
with the office itself in the memory of man. But there 
is still another reason, more important than either of these, 
afforded by the fact, that the old dispensation, with all its pecu- 
liar institutions, was prospective in its character, a preparation 
for better things to come. It is not surprising, therefore, that 
a part of this economy so marked and prominent, should have 
exhibited a special leaning towards futurity. 

This naturally leads us from the theoretical idea of a prophet 
as a person speaking by divine authority and inspiration, to the 
practical consideration of the end or purpose aimed at in the 
whole prophetic institution. This was not merely the relief 
of private doubts, much less the gratification of private cu- 
riosity. The gift of prophecy was closely connected with the 
general design of the old economy. The foundation of the 
system was the Law, as recorded in the five books of Moses. 
In that, as an epitome, the rest of the Old Testament is con- 
tained, at least as to its seminal principles. The single book 
of Deuteronomy exhibits specimens of almost every style em- 


ployed by the sacred writers elsewhere. Still more remark- 
ably is this true of the whole Pentateuch, in reference not 
merely to its manner but its matter, as comprising virtually 
all that is developed and applied in the revelations of the later 
books. To make this development and application was the 
business of the prophets. The necessity for such an institu- 
tion was no after-thought. The law itself provides for it. The 
promise of a prophet like unto Moses, in the eighteenth chap- 
ter of Deuteronomy, comprehends the promise of a constant 
succession of inspired men, so far as this should be required by 
the circumstances of the people, which succession was to termi- 
nate in Christ 

This promise was abundantly fulfilled. In every emergency 
requiring such an interposition, we find prophets present and 
active, and in some important periods of the history of Israel 
they existed in great numbers. These, though not all inspired 
writers, were all inspired men, raised up and directed by a 
special divine influence, to signify and sometimes to execute the 
will of God, in the administration of the theocracy. Joshua is 
expressly represented as enjoying such an influence, and is 
reckoned in the Jewish tradition as a prophet. The Judges 
who succeeded him were all raised up in special emergencies, 
and were directed and controlled by a special divine influence 
or inspiration. Samuel was one of the most eminent prophets. 
After the institution of the monarchy we read constantly of 
prophets distinct from the civil rulers. After the schism be- 
tween Judah and Ephraim, there continued to be prophets, 
even in the kingdom of the ten tribes. They were peculiarly 
necessary there indeed, because the people of that kingdom 
were cut off from the sanctuary and its services, as bonds of 
union with Jehovah. The prophetic ministry continued through 
the Babylonish exile, and ceased some years after the restora- 
tion, in the person of Malachi, whom the Jews unanimously 
represent as the last of their prophets. 


With respect to the nature of the inspiration under which 
these prophets spoke and acted, there can he no doubt that the 
Bible itself represents it as plenary, or fully adequate to the 
attainment of its end: (2 Tim. 3 : 16. 2 Pet. 1 : 21.) Where, 
this end was external action, it was sufficiently secured by the 
gift of courage, strength, or practical wisdom. Where the in- 
struction of God's people was the object, whether in reference 
to the past, the present, or the future ; whether in word, in 
writing, or in both ; whether for temporary ends, or with a view 
to perpetual preservation ; the prophets ate clearly represented 
as infallible, that is, incapable of erring or deceiving, with respect 
to the matter of their revelation. How far this object was se- 
cured by direct suggestion, by negative control, or by an eleva- 
ting influence upon the native powers, is a question of no prac- 
tical importance to those who hold the essential doctrine that 
the inspiration was in all cases such as to render those who were 
inspired infallible. Between this supposition and the opposite 
extreme, which denies inspiration altogether, or resolves it into 
mere excitement of the imagination and the sensibilities, like 
the afflatus of a poet or an orator, there seems to be no definite 
and safe position. Either the prophets were not inspired at 
all in any proper sense, or they were so inspired as to be in- 

As to the mode in which the required impression was made, 
it seems both vain and needless to attempt any definite descrip- 
tion of it. The ultimate effect would be the same in any case, 
if not upon the prophet, upon those who heard or read his pro- 
phecies. So far as anything can be inferred from incidental or 
explicit statements of the Scripture, the most usual method of 
communication would appear to have been that of immediate 
vision, that is, the presentation of the thing to be revealed as if it 
were an object of sight. Thus Micaiah saw Israel scattered on 
the hills like sheep without a shepherd (1 Kings 22 : 17), and 
Isaiah saw Jehovah sitting xm a lofty throne (Isai. 6:1). That 


this was the most usual mode of presentation, is probable not 
only from occasional expressions such as those just quoted, but 
from the fact, that a very large proportion of the prophetic rev- 
elations are precisely such as might be painted and subjected 
to the sense of sight. The same conclusion is confirmed by the 
use of the words seer and vision as essentially equivalent to 
prophet and prophecy. There is no need, however, of supposing 
that this method of communication, even if it were the common 
one, was used invariably. Some things in the prophecies re- 
quire us to suppose that they were made known to the prophet 
just as he made them known to others, to wit, by the simple 
suggestion of appropriate words. But this whole question is 
rather one of curiosity than use. 

It has been disputed whether the prophets of the old dispen- 
sation had any training for their work, at all analogous to 
what we call a professional education. Some have supposed the 
sons of the prop hets, frequently mentioned in the books of Kings, 
to have been young men in a course of preparation for the pro- 
phetic ministry. To this it has been objected, that their minis- 
try depended on the gift of inspiration, for which no human 
training could compensate or prepare them. But although they 
could not act as prophets without inspiration, they might be 
prepared for those parts of the work which depended upon cul- 
ture, such as a correct mode of expression, just as men may 
now be trained by education for the work of the ministry, 
although convinced that its success depends entirely on the 
divine blessing. It is not to be forgotten that the inspiration 
under which the prophets acted left them in full possession of 
their faculties, native and acquired, and with all their peculi- 
arities of thought and feeling unimpaired. The whole subject 
of prophetic education is, however, one of surmise and con. 
jecture, rather than of definite knowledge or of practical utility. 

To the government the prophets do not seem to have sus- 
tained any definite or fixed relation, as component parts of a 


political system. The extent and manner of their influence, in 
this respect, depended on the character of the rulers, the state 
of affairs, and the nature of the messages which they were com- 
missioned to deliver. As a class, the prophets influenced the 
government, not by official formal action, but as special messen- 
gers from God, by whom he was represented in particular 
emergencies, and whose authority could neither be disputed nor 
resisted by any magistrate without abjuring the fundamental 
principles of the theocracy. Even the apostate kings of 
Israel acknowledged the divine legation of the prophets of 

With respect to the promulgation and preservation of the 
prophecies, there have been various opinions and many fanciful 
conjectures. Some suppose the prophets to have been a kind 
of demagogues or popular orators, whose speeches, if not pre- 
viously prepared, were afterwards recorded by themselves or 
others. Another supposition is that the prophets were inspired 
writers, and that their prophecies were published only as writ- 
ten compositions. A distinction as to this point has by some 
been drawn between the earlier and the later prophets. From 
the death of Moses to the accession of Uzziah, a period of 
nearly seven hundred years, a large proportion of the prophets 
are supposed to have performed their functions orally and with- 
out leaving anythiug on record ; whereas after that period 
they were led to act not only for the present but the future. 
We have no cause to doubt, however, that we now have in pos- 
session all that was " written aforetime for our learning." And 
in the case of any prophecy, the question whether it was orally 
delivered before it was written is comparatively unimportant, 
as our only concern with it is in its written form. The idea 
that the prophecies now extant are mere summaries of long 
discourses is ingenious and plausible in certain cases, but ad- 
mits of no historical or certain demonstration. v 

A question of more moment is that with respect to the way 


in which the writings were preserved, whether by private cir- 
culation as detached compositions, or by solemn enrolment and 
deposit in the sanctuary. The modern critics who dispute the 
integrity and genuineness of many passages lean to the former 
supposition ; but the latter is unquestionably favoured by the 
whole drift of Scripture and the current of ancient usage, sacred 
and profane, with respect to writings which were looked upon 
as sacred. It may well be doubted whether among the ancient 
Hebrews there was any extensive circulation of books at all, 
and it seems to me to be as hard to disprove as to prove the 
position, that the only literature of the nation was THE 
BOOK or SCRIPTURE (-*©*), which from the time of 
Moses was kept open, and in which the writings of the prophets 
may have been recorded as they were produced. At all events, 
it seems unreasonable and at variance with the. tenor of Scrip- 
ture to suppose, that writings held to be inspired were left to 
circulate at random and to share the fate of other compositions, 
without any effort to attest their genuineness or to secure their 

The uniform tradition of the Jews is, that the sacred books 
were finally collected and arranged by Ezra under the guidance 
of divine inspiration, and that among them a prominent place, 
and for the most part the first place, has-been always held, by 
a book bearing the name of Isaiah. 

The name Isaiah is a compound word denoting the Salva- 
tion of Jehovah, to which some imagine that the Prophet him- 
self alludes in ch. 8 : 18. The abbreviated form frpssr) is 
never applied in Scripture to the Prophet, though the rabbins 
employ it in titles and inscriptions. Both forms of the name 
are applied in the Old Testament to other persons, in all which 
cases the English Version employs a different orthography, viz. 
Jeshaiah or Jesaiah. In the New Testament our Version writes 
the name Esaias, after the example of the Vulgate, varying 
slightly from the Greek l Hoatag, used both in the Septuagint 


and the New Testament. To the name of the Prophet we find 
several times added that of his father Amoz. Of his domes- 
tic circumstances we know merely, that his wife and two of his 
sons are mentioned by himself (ch. 7:3; 8 : 3, 4) to which 
some add a third, as we shall see below. 

The only historical account of this Prophet is contained in 
the book which bears his name, and in the parallel passages of 
Second Kings, which exhibit unequivocal signs of being from 
the hand of the same writer. The first sentence of Isaiah's 
own book, assigns as the period of his ministry the four suc- 
cessive reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, one of 
the most eventful periods in the history of Judah. The two 
first reigns here mentioned were exceedingly prosperous, al- 
though a change for the worse appears to have commenced 
before the death of Jotham, and continued through the reign 
of Ahaz, bringing the state to the very verge of ruin, from 
which it was not restored to a prosperous condition until long 
after the accession of Hezekiah. During this period the king- 
dom of the ten tribes, which had flourished greatly under Jero- 
boam II, for many years contemporary with Uzziah, passed 
through the hands of a succession of usurpers, and was at length 
overthrown by the Assyrians, in the sixth year of Hezekiah's 
reign over Judah. 

Among the neighbouring powers, with whom Israel was more 
or less engaged in conflict during these four reigns, the most 
important were Damascene Syria, Moab, Edom, and the Philis- 
tines^ who although resident within the allotted bounds of 
Judah, still endeavoured to maintain their position as an inde- 
pendent and a hostile nation. But the foreign powers which 
diiefly influenced the condition of south-western Asia during 
this period, were the two great empires of Assyria in the east, 
and Egypt in the south-west. By a rapid succession of im- 
fortant conquests, the former had suddenly acquired a magni- 
tude and strength which it had not possessed for ages, if at all. 


Egypt had been subdued, at least in part, by Ethiopia ; bat 
this very event, by combining the forces of two great nations, 
had given unexampled strength to the Ethiopian dynasty in 
Upper Egypt The mutual jealousy and emulation between 
this state and Assyria, naturally tended to make Palestine, 
whieh lay between them, a theatre qf war, at least at intervals, 
for many years. It also led the kings of Israel and Judah to 
take part in the contentions of these two great powers, and to 
secure themselves by uniting, sometimes with Egypt against 
Assyria, sometimes with Assyria against Egypt It was this 
inconstant policy that hastened the destruction of the kingdom 
of the ten tribes, and exposed that of Judah to imminent 
peril. Against this policy the prophets, and especially Isaiah, 
were commissioned to remonstrate, no only as unworthy in itself, 
but as implying a distrust of God's protection, and indifference 
to the fundamental law of the theocracy. The Babylonian mon- 
archy began to gather strength before the end of this period, 
but was less conspicuous, because not yet permanently inde- 
pendent of Assyria. 

The two most remarkable conjunctures in the history of 
Judah during Isaiah's ministry are the invasion of the com- 
bined force of Syria and Israel in the reign of Ahaz, followed 
by the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes, and the 
Assyrian invasion in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, ending 
in the miraculous destruction of Sennacherib's army and his 
own. ignominious flight. The historical interest of this im- 
portant period is farther heightened by the fact, that two of 
the most noted eras in chronology fall within it, to wit, the em 
of Nabonassar, and that computed from the building of Rome. 

The length of Isaiah's public ministry is doubtful. The 
aggregate duration of the four reigns mentioned in. the title is 
above one hunded and twelve years; but it is not said that lie 
prophesied throughout the whole reign either of Uzziah or 
Hezekiah. Some, it is true, have inferred that his ministry was 



co-extensive with the whole reign of Uzziah, because he is said 
to have written the history of that prince (2 Chron. 26 : 22), 
which be surely might have done without being strictly his 
contemporary, just as he may have written that of Hezekiah to 
a certain date (2 Chron. 32 : 32), and yet have died before him. 
Neither of these incidental statements can be understood as 
throwing any light upon the question of chronology. Most 
writers, both among the Jews and Christians, understood the 
first verse of the sixth chapter as determining the year of king 
Uzziah's death to be the first of Isaiah's public ministry. Some 
of the Jewish writers, who adopt this supposition, at the same 
time understand Uzziah's death to mean his civil death, occa- 
sioned by the leprosy with which he was smitten in the twenty- 
fifth year of his reign, for his sacrilegious invasion of the house 
of God, so that he dwelt in a separate house until his death. 
There seems to be no sufficient ground for this explanation of 
the language, or for the alleged coincidence of the event with 
the twenty-fifth year of Uzziah's reign, any more than for the 
notion of the oriental Christians, that Uzziah was deprived of 
the prophetic office for his sin in not withstanding Uzziah, and 
after twenty-eight years of silence was restored in the year of 
that king's death, a fanciful interpretation of the facts recorded 
in chap. vi. The modern writers are agreed in understanding 
the expression literally, and in connecting the last year of Uz- 
ziah's life with the first year of Isaiah's ministry. It is by no 
means certain, as we shall see below, that the sixth chapter is 
descriptive of Isaiah's inauguration into office, still less that it 
was written before any of the others. But it cannot be denied 
that the chronological hypothesis just stated is strongly recom- 
mended by the fact of its removing all objections to the truth 
of the inscription (chap. 1:1) founded on the extreme longevity 
which it would otherwise ascribe to the prophet, by enabling us 
at once to deduct half a century. If we reckon from the last 
year of Uzziah to the fourteenth of Hezekiah, the last in which 


-we find any certain historical traces of Isaiah, we obtain as the 
minimum of his prophetic ministry a period of forty-seven years, 
and this, supposing that he entered on it even at the age of 
thirty, would leave him at his death less than eighty years old. 
And even if it be assumed that he survived Hezekiah, and con- 
tinued some years under his successor, the length of his life will 
after all be far less than that of Jehoiada, the high-priest, who 
ifiied in the reign of Joash at the age of 130 years. (2 Chron. 
24 : 15.) 

The Jews have a positive tradition that he did die in the 
reign of Manasseh, and as victim of the bloody persecutions by 
which that king is said to have filled Jerusalem with innocent 
blood from one end to the other. (2 Kings 21 : 16.) This tra- 
dition is received as true by several of the Fathers, who suppose 
it to be clearly alluded to in Heb. 1 1 : 37. 

From the references, which have been already quoted, to the 
historical writings of Isaiah, some have inferred that he was an 
official historiographer, in which capacity the older prophets 
seem to have acted, as appears from the canonical insertion of 
such books as those of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, 
among the Prophets. We have no reason to suppose, however, 
that Isaiah held any secular office of the kind, distinct from 
his prophetic ministry. Nor is it clear in what sense the cita- 
tion of Isaiah by the Chronicles as an historical authority should 
be understood. The reference may be simply to the historical 
portions of his book,' or to the corresponding passages of Second 
Kings, of which, in strict discharge of his official functions, he 
may well have been the author. That the books referred to 
were more copious histories or annals, of which only summaries 
or fragments are now extant, is a supposition which, however 
credible or even plausible it may be in itself, is not susceptible 
of demonstration. 

This book not only forms a part of the Old Testament Canon 
as far as we can trace it back, but has held its place there with* 


4mt any change of form, size, or contents, of which the least 
external evidence can be adduced The allusions to this Pro- 
phet, and the imitations of him, in the later books of the Old 
Testament, are not confined to any one part of the book or any 
•iagle class of passages. The apocryphal writers who make 
iitntion of it, use no expressions which imply that it was not 
already long complete in its present form and size. The same 
thing seems to be implied in the numerous citations of thia, 
look in the New Testament. Without going here into minute 
.details, a correct idea of the general fact may be conveyed by 
pimply stating, that of the £ixty*six chapters of Isaiah, as divi- 
ded in our modern Bibles, forty-seven are commonly supposed 
to be directly quoted or distinctly alluded to, and some of them 
repeatedly. The same thing may be illustrated clearly on a 
smaller scale by stating, that in the twenty-one cases where 
Isaiah is expressly named in the New Testament, the quota- 
tions are drawn from the first, sixth, eighth, tenth, eleventh, 
.twenty-ninth, forty-second, sixty-first, and sixty-fifth chapters 
of the book before us. These facts, together with the absence 
of; all countervailing evidence, show clearly that the Book of 
ih&. Prophet Isaiah (Luke 4 : 17) known and quoted by our 
Lord and his apostles was, as a whole, identical with that which 
we: have under the same name. We find accordingly a long 
Unbroken series of interpreters, Jewish and Christian, through 
> Cjpurse of ages, not only acquiescing in this general statement, 
but regarding all the passages and parts,. of which the book con- 
aisfcs, as clearly and unquestionably genuine. 

Isaiah himself, even leaving out of view the large part of his 
book which a capricious criticism has called in question, may 
be said to express everywhere his own belief that he was 
writing under an extraordinary influence, not merely human but 
divine. This is at least the prima facie view which any unso- 
phisticated reader would derive from a simple perusal of his 
•undisputed writings. However mistaken he might think the 


prophet, in asserting or assuming his own inspiration, such a 
reatter could scarcely hesitate to grant that he believed it and 
expected it to be believed by others. In one of the oldest and 
best of the Jewish Apocrypha (Sirach 24 : 25), Isaiah is called 
the great and faithful prophet who foresaw what was to happen 
till the end of time. Josephns and Philo incidentally bear 
witness to his universal recognition by their countrymen as one 
inspired of God. 

We have seen already that our Lord and his Apostles cite 
the whole book of Isaiah with more frequency than any other 
part of the Old Testament. It now becomes a question of his- 
torical interest at least, in what capacity and character Isaiah 
is thus quoted, and with what authority he seems to be invested 
in the New Testament. The simple fact that he is there so 
often quoted, when connected with another undisputed fact, to 
wit, that his writings, even at that early date, held a conspicuous 
place among the Sacred Scriptures (Uq& yQ&p/uaj*, yQaqml ayiui) 
of the Jews, would of itself create a strong presumption that 
our Lord and his apostles recognized his inspiration and divine 
authority. We are not left, however, to infer this incidentally ; 
for it is proved directly by the frequent combination of the 
title Prophet with the name Isaiah (Matt. 3:3; 4 : 14 ; 8 : 
17 ; 12 : 17. Luke 3 : 4 ; 4 : 17. John 1 : 23. Acts 8 : 
28-30 ; 28 : 25) ; by the repeated statement that he pro- 
phesied or spoke by inspiration (Mark 7 : 6. Bom. 9 : 29) ; 
by the express declaration that some of his predictions were 
fulfilled in the history of Christ and his contemporaries (Matt. 
3 : 3; 4 : 14; 8 : 17. Acts 28 : 25); and by the still more 
remarkable statement that Isaiah saw Christ and spoke of his 
glory (John 12 : 41). These expressions place it beyond all 
possibility of doubt that the New Testament describes Isaiah 
as a Prophet in the strictest and the highest sense inspired of 
With respect to the prophetic parte of Scripture, and to the 


writings of Isaiah in particular, a few exegetical maxims may 
be stated. These, for the most part, will be negative in form, 
as being intended to preclude certain fallacies and practical 
errors, which have greatly hindered the correct interpretation 
of the book before us. The generic formulas here used will be 
abundantly exemplified hereafter by specific instances arising 
in the course of the interpretation. 

1. All prophecies are not predictions, i. e. all the writings 
of the Prophets, and of this one in particular, are not to be 
regarded as descriptive of future events. The contrary error, 
whioh has arisen chiefly from the modern and restricted usage 
of the word prophet and its cognate terms, has generated some 
of the most crude extravagancies of prophetic exegesis. It has 
been shown already, by an historical and philological induction, 
that the scriptural idea of prophecy is far more extensive, that 
the prophets were inspired to reveal the truth and will of God, 
in reference to the past and present, no less than the future. 
In Isaiah, for example, we find many statements of a general 
nature, and particularly exhibitions of the general principles 
which govern the divine administration, especially in reference 
to the chosen people and their enemies or persecutors. 

2. All predictions, or prophecies in the restricted sense, are 
not specific and exclusive, i. e. limited to one occasion or 
emergency, but many are descriptive of a sequence of events 
which has been often realized. The vagueness and indefinite- 
ness which might seem to attach to such predictions, and by 
making their fulfilment more uncertain to detract from their 
impressive ness and value, are precluded by the fact that, while 
the whole prediction frequently admits of this extensive appli- 
cation, it includes allusions to particular events, which can 
hardly be mistaken. Thus in some parts of Isaiah, there are 
prophetic pictures of the sieges of Jerusalem, which cannot be 
exclusively applied to any one event of that kind, but the terms 
-and images of whioh are borrowed partly from one and partly 


from another through a coarse of ages. This kind of prophecy, 
so far from being vague and unimpressive, is the clearest proof 
of real inspiration, because more than any other beyond the 
reach of ordinary human foresight. Thus the threatening 
against Babylon, contained in the thirteenth and fourteenth 
chapters of Isaiah, if explained as a specific and exclusive 
prophecy of the Medo-Persian conquest, seems to represent the 
downfall of the city as more sudden and complete than it ap- 
pears in history, and on the other hand affords a pretext, 
though a very insufficient one, for the assertion that it may 
have been composed so near the time of the events foretold as 
to bring them within the reach of uninspired but sagacious 
foresight. No such hypothesis, however, will account for the 
extraordinary truth of the prediction when regarded as a pano- 
rama of the fall of Babylon, and not in its first inception merely, 
but through all its stages till its consummation. 

3. All the predictions of Isaiah, whether general or specific, 
are not to be literally understood. The ground of this position 
is the fact, universally admitted, that the prophecies abound in 
metaphorical expressions. To assert that this figurative char- 
acter is limited to words and clauses, or at most to single sen- 
tences, is wholly arbitrary, and at variance with the acknowl- 
edged use of parables, both in the Old and New Testament, in 
which important doctrines and events are presented under a 
tropical costume, throughout a passage sometimes of consider- 
able length. These facts are sufficient to sustain the negative 
position, that the prophecies are not invariably clothed in literal 
expressions, or in other words are not to be always literally 

4. The prophecies of this book are not to be always under- 
stood in a figurative or spiritual sense. The contrary assump- 
tion has engendered a vast motley multitude of mystical and 
anagogical interpretations, sometimes superadded to the ob- 
vious sense, and sometimes substituted for it, but in either case 


obscuring the true import and defeating the design of the pre- 
diction. The same application of the laws of common sense 
and of general analogy, which shows- that some predictions 
most be metaphorical, shows that others roust be literal To 
assert, without express authority, that prophecy must always 
and exclusively be one or the other, is as foolish as it would be to 
assert the same thing of the whole conversation of an individual 
throughout his lifetime, or of human speech in general. No 
valid reason can be given for applying this exclusive canon of 
interpretation to the prophecies, which would not justify its 
application to the Iliad, the JEoeid> the Divina Commedia, or 
the Paradise Lost, an application fruitful only in absurdities. 
Isaiah's prophecies are therefore not to be expounded on the 
general principle, that either a literal or a figurative sense must 
be assumed wherever it is possible. We have already seen the 
fallacies resulting from the assumption, that whatever is possible 
is probable or certain. To set aside the obvious and strict sense, 
wherever it may be done without absurdity, is forbidden by the 
very nature of the difference between literal and figurative lan- 
guage. That which is regular and normal must at times assert 
its rights or it becomes anomalous. On the other hand, to 
claim precedence for the strict and proper sense in every case, 
is inconsistent with the fact that symbols, emblems, images, and 
tropes, are characteristic of prophetic language. In a word, 
the question between literal and tropical interpretation is not 
to be determined by the application of invariable formulas. 
The same remark may be applied to the vexed question with 
respect to types and double sensea The old extreme of con- 
stantly assuming these wherever it is possible, and the later 
extreme of denying their existence, may be both considered as 
exploded errors. 

The question, under which of these descriptions any prophecy 
must be arranged, i. e. the question whether it is strictly a pre- 
diction^ and if *>, whether it is general or particular, literal or 


figurative, can only be determined by a thorough independent 
scrutiny of each ease by itself, in reference to form and sab- 
stance, text and context, without regard to arbitrary and ex- 
clusive theories, bat with a duo regard to the analogy of Scrip- 
ture in general, and of other prophecies in particular, especially 
of such as belong to the same writer, or at least to the same 
period, and apparently relate to the same subject. This is far 
from being so attractive or so easy as the sweeping application 
of a comprehensive canon to all cases, like and unlike ; bat it 
seems to be the only process likely to afford a satisfactory 
result, and one main purpose of the following exposition is to 
prove its efficacy by a laborious and fair experiment. 

In executing this design, it is essential that regard should be 
paid to the exterior form as well as to the substance of a pas- 
sage, that rhetorical embellishments should be distinguished 
from didactic propositions, that prosaic and poetical peculiari- 
ties should be distinctly and correctly estimated at their real 
value. This discriminating process necessarily involves a scru- 
pulous avoidance of two opposite extremes, which have, at dif- 
ferent periods, and in some cases simultaneously, done much to 
pervert and hinder the interpretation of the book before us. 
The first extreme, particularly prevalent in earlier times, is that 
of understanding the most highly wrought descriptions, the 
most vivid imagery, the boldest personifications, as mere prose. 
This is especially exemplified in the irrational and tasteless 
manner of expounding apologues and parables by many of the 
older writers, who insist on giving a specific sense to circum- 
stances which are significant only as parts of one harmonious 
whole. The other extreme, is that of turning elevated prose 
diversified by bursts of poetry, into a regular poem or series of 
poems, technically so considered, and subjecting them as such 
to all the test's and rules of classical poetry, and even to the 
canons of its versification. The golden mean between these 
hurtful and irrational extremes appears to lie in the assiduous 


observance of the true poetical ingredients of Isaiah's style, 
both in themselves and in their various combinations, with a 
rigid abstinence from all scholastic and pedantic theories of 
Hebrew poetry, and all peculiar forms and methods which have 
sprung from them or tend to their promotion. 

No attempt has here been made to give a new translation of 
the book, complete in itself, and suited for continuous perusal. 
The translation is part and parcel of the commentary, closely 
incorporated with it, and in some degree inseparable from it. 
After the study of a passage with the aid here furnished, it 
may no doubt be again read with advantage in this version, for 
the sake of which it has been not only printed in a different 
type, but generally placed at the beginning of the paragraph. 
This explanation seems to be required, as the whole form and 
manner of the version have been modified by this design. If 
meant for separate continuous perusal, it must of course have 
been so constructed as to be easily intelligible by itself; whereas 
a version introduced as a text or basis of immediate exposi- 
tion, admitted of a closer approximation to the idiomatic form 
of the original, with all its occasional obscurity and harshness, 
than would probably have been endured by readers of refined 
taste in an independent version. 

The arrangement of the Prophecies is assumed to be chron- 
ological. The apparent exceptions will be pointed out as we 
proceed. The usual division into chapters (although no older 
than the thirteenth century) is here retained, as universally 
familiar and in general convenient, but in no case suffered to 
determine any question of interpretation. 


The design of this chapter is to show the connection between 
the sins and sufferings of God's people, and the necessity of fur- 
ther judgments, as means of purification and deliverance. 

The popular corruption is first exhibited as the effect of alien- 
ation from God, and as the cause of national calamities, vs. 2-9. 
It is then exhibited as coexisting with punctilious exactness in 
religious duties, and as rendering them worthless, vs. 10-20. 
It is finally exhibited in twofold contrast, first with a former 
state of things, and then with one still future, to be brought 
about by the destruction of the wicked, and especially of wicked 
rulers, vs. 21-31. 

The first part of the chapter describes the sin and then the 
suffering of the people. The former is characterized as filial 
ingratitude, stupid inconsideration, habitual transgression, con- 
tempt of God, and alienation from him, vs. 2-4. The suffering 
is first represented by the figure of disease and wounds, and 
then in literal terms as the effect of an invasion, by which the 
nation was left desolate, and only saved by God's regard for his 
elect from the total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, vs. 5-9. 
The second part is connected with the first by the double 
allusion to Sodom and Gomorrah, with which one closes and the 
other opens. Ill this part the Prophet shows the utter ineffi- 
cacy of religious rites to counteract the natural effect of their 
iniquities, and then exhorts them to the use of the true remedy. 


Under the former head, addressing them as similar in character 
to Sodom and Gomorrah, he describes their sacrifices as abund- 
ant and exact, b.ut not acceptable ; their attendance at the temple 
as punctual, and yet insulting ; their bloodless offerings as ab- 
horrent, and their holy days as wearisome and hateful on account 
of their iniquities ; their very prayers as useless, because their 
hands were stained with blood, vs. 10-15. As a necessary 
means of restoration to God's favor, he exhorts them to forsake 
their evil courses and to exercise benevolence and justice, as- 
suring them that God was willing to forgive them and restore 
the advantages which they had forfeited by sin, but at the same 
time resolved to punish the impenitent transgressor, vs. 16-20. 

The transition from the second to the third part is abrupt, 
and introduced by a pathetic exclamation. In this part the 
Prophet compares Israel as it is with what it has been and with 
what it shall be. In the former comparison, he employs two 
metaphors, each followed by a literal explanation of its meaning ; 
that of a faithful wife become a harlot, and that of adulterated 
wine and silver, both expressive of a moral deterioration, with 
special reference to magistrates and rulers, vs. 21-23. In 
the other comparison, the coming judgments are presented 
in the twofold aspect of purification and deliverance to the 
church, and of destruction to its wicked members. The Pro- 
phet sees the leading men of Israel destroyed, first as oppres- 
sors, to make room for righteous rulers and thus save the state, 
then as idolaters consumed by that in which they trusted for 
protection, vs. 24-31. 

It is probable, that this prophecy belongs to the class already 
mentioned (in the Introduction) as exhibiting a sequence of 
events, or providential scheme, which might be realized in more 
than one emergency ; not so much a prediction as a prophetic 
lesson with respect to the effects which certain* causes must in- 
fallibly produce. Such a discourse would be peculiarly appro* 
priate as an introduction to the prophecies which follow ; and 


its seeming inconsistencies are all accounted for, by simply sup- 
posing that it was written for this purpose about the time of 
Sennacherib's invasion in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's 
reign, and that in it the Prophet takes a general survey of tho 
changes which the church had undergone since the beginning 
of his public ministry. 4 

1 . This is a general title of the whole book or one of its larger 
divisions, (ch. i.-xxxix. or i.-xii.) defining its character, author, 
subject, and date. The Vision (supernatural perception, inspi- 
ration, revelation, prophecy, here put collectively for Prophe- 
cies) of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw (perceived, received 
by inspiration) concerning Judah (the kingdom of the two tribes 
which adhered to the theocracy after the revolt of Jeroboam) 
and Jerusalem (its capital, the chosen seat of the true religion), 
in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah, 
The prophecies relating to the ten tribes and to foreign powers 
owe their place in this collection to their bearing, more or less 
direct, upon the interests of Judah. With respect to the names 
Isaiah and Amoz, and the chronology of this verse, see the Intro- 

2. The Prophet first describes the moral state of Judah, vs. 
2-4, and then the miseries arising from it, vs. 5-9. To the 
former he invites attention by summoning the universe to hear 
the Lord's complaint against his people, who are first charged 
with filial ingratitude. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, 
as witnesses and judges, and as being less insensible yourselves 
than men, for Jehovah speaks, not man. Sons I have reared and 
brought up, literally made great and made high, and they, with 
emphasis on the pronoun which is otherwise superfluous, even 
they have revolted from me, or rebelled against me, not merely in 
a general sense by sinning, but in a special sense by violating 
that peculiar covenant which bound God to his people. It is 


in reference to this bond and to the conjugal relation which the 
Scriptures represent God as sustaining to his church or people, 
that its constituent members are here called his children. 
The English Bible and many other versions read Jehovah has 
spoken, which seems to refer to a previous revelation, or to indi- 
cate a mere repetition of his words, whereas he is himself intro- 
duced as speaking. The preterite may be here used to express 
the present for the purpose of suggesting that he did not thus 
speak for the first time. Compare Heb. 1:1. 

3. Having tacitly compared the insensible Jews with the in- 
animate creation, he now explicitly compares them with the 
brutes, selecting for that purpose two which were especially 
familiar as domesticated animals, subjected to man's power and 
dependent on him for subsistence, and at the same time as pro- 
verbially stupid, inferiority to which must therefore be peculi- 
arly disgraceful. The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his 
master's crib or feeding place. Israel, the chosen people, as a 
whole, without regard to those who had seceded from it, doth 
not know, my people doth not consider, pay attention or take no- 
tice. Like the ox and the ass, Israel had a master, upon whom 
he was dependent, and to whom he owed obedience ; but, unlike 
them, he did not recognize and would not serve his rightful 
sovereign and the author of his mercies. 

4. As the foregoing verses render prominent the false position 
of Israel with respect to God, considered first as a father and 
then as a master (comp. Mai. 1 : 6), so this brings into view their 
moral state in general, resulting from that alienation, and still 
represented as inseparable from it. The Prophet speaks again 
in his own person, and expresses wonder, pity, and indignation 
at the state to which his people had reduced themselves. Ah, 
sinful nation, literally nation sinning, i. e. habitually, which is 
the force here of the active participle, people heavy with iniquity, 


weighed down by guilt as an oppressive burden, a seed of evil' 
doers , i. e. the offspring of wicked parents, sons corrupting them- 
selves, i. e. doing worse than their fathers, in which sense the 
same verb is used, Judges. 2 : 19. The evil-doers are of course 
not the Patriarchs or Fathers of the nation, but the intervening 
wicked generations. As the first clause tells us what they 
were, so the second tells us what they did, by what acts they 
had merited the character just given. They have forsaken 
Jehovah, a phrase descriptive of iniquity in general, but pecu- 
liarly expressive of the breach of covenant obligations. They 
have treated with contempt the Holy One of Israel, a title almost 
peculiar to Isaiah, and expressing a twofold aggravation of 
their sin ; first that he was infinitely excellent ; and then, that 
he was theirs, their own peculiar God. They are alienated back 
again. The verb denotes estrangement from God, the adverb 
retrocession or backsliding into a former state. 

5. To the description of their moral state, beginning and 
ending with apostasy from God, the Prophet now adds a de- 
scription of the consequences, vs. 5-9. This he introduces by 
an expostulation on their mad perseverance in transgression, 
notwithstanding the extremities to which it had reduced them. 
Whereupon, i. e. on what part of the body, can ye be stricken, 
smitten, punished, any more, that ye add revolt, departure or 
apostasy from God, i. e. revolt more and more? Already the 
whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. — The same sense is 
attained, but in a less striking form, by reading why. to what 
purpose, will ye be smitten any more 1 why continue to revolt ? If 
their object was to make themselves miserable, it was already 
accomplished. — Calvin, followed by the English version and 
others, gives a different turn to the interrogation : Why should 
ye be smitten any more ? of what use is it ? ye will revolt more 
and more. But the reason thus assigned for their ceasing to bo 
smitten is wholly different from that given in the last clause 


and amplified in the following verse, viz. that they were already 
faint and covered with wounds. The head and heart are men- 
tioned as well-known and important parts of the body, to 
whioh the church or nation had been likened. 

6. The idea suggested at the beginning of v. 5, that there 
was no more room for further- strokes, is now carried out with 
great particularity. From the sole of the foot and (i. e. even) 
to the head (a common scriptural expression for the body in its 
whole extent) there is not in it (the people, or in him, L <0. 
Judab, considered as a body) a sound place ; (it is) wound and 
bruise (vibex, the tumor produced by stripes) and fresh stroke. 
The wounds are then described as not only grievous but neg- 
lected. They have not been pressed, and they have not been 
bound or bandaged, and it has not been mollified with ointment, 
all familiar processes of ancient surgery. 

7. Thus far the sufferings of the people have been repre- 
sented by strong figures, giving no intimation of their actual 
form, or of the outward causes which produced them. But now 
the Prophet brings distinctly into view foreign invasion as the 
instrument of vengeance, and describes the country as already 
desolated by it. The absence of verbs in the first clause gives 
great rapidity and life to the description. Your land (inclu- 
ding town and country, which are afterwards distinctly men- 
tioned) a waste ! Your towns (including cities and villages of 
every size) burnt with fire I Your ground (including its pro- 
duce), i. e. as to your ground, before you (in your presence, but 
beyond your reach) strangers (are) devouring it, and a waste (it 
is a waste) like the overthrow of strangers, i. e. as foreign foes 
are wont to waste a country, in which they have no interest, 
and for which they have no pity. 

8. The extent of the desolation is expressed by comparing 


fihe church or nation to a watch-shed in a field or vineyard, far 
from other habitations, and forsaken after the ingathering. 
And the daughter of Zion, i. e. the people of Zion or Jerusalem, 
considered as the capital of Judah, and therefore representing 
the whole nation, is left, not forsaken, but left over or behind 
as a survivor, like a booth, a temporary covert of leaves and 
branches, in a vineyard, like a lodge in a melon-field, like a watched 
city, i. e. watched by friends and foes, besieged and garrisoned, 
and therefore insulated, cut off from all communication with 
the country. That Jerusalem is not called the daughter of 
Zion from its local situation on that mountain, is clear from the 
analogous phrases daughter of Tyre, daughter of Babylon, where 
no such explanation is admissible. 

9. The idea of a desolation almost total is expressed in 
other words, and with an intimation that the narrow escape was 
owing to God's favor for the remnant according to the election 
of grace, who still existed in the Jewish church. Except Je* 
hovah of Hosts had left unto us (or caused to remain over, to sur- 
vive, for us) a very small remnant, we should have been like Sodom, 
we should have resembled Gomorrah, i. e. we should have been 
totally and justly destroyed. That the verse has reference to 
quality as well as quantity, is evident from Rom. 9 : 29, where 
Paul makes use of it, not as an illustration, but as an argument 
to show that mere connection with the church could not save 
men from the wrath of God. The citation would have been 
irrelevant if this phrase denoted merely a small number of 
survivors, and not a minority of true believers in the midst of 
the prevailing unbelief. Jehovah of Hosts means the Sovereign 
Ruler of " heaven and earth and all the hosts of them," i. e. all 
their inhabitants (Gen. 2 : 1 ). 

1 10. Having assigned the corruption of the people as the 
cause of their calamities, the Prophet now guards against the 



error of supposing that the sin thus visited was that of neglect- 
ing the external duties of religion, which were in fact punctil- 
iously performed, hut unavailing because joined with the prac- 
tice of iniquity, vs. 10-15. This part of the chapter is con- 
nected with what goes before by repeating the allusion to 
Sodom and Gomorrah. Having just said that God's sparing 
mercy had alone prevented their resembling Sodom and Go- 
morrah in condition, he now reminds them that they do re- 
semble Sodom and Gomorrah in iniquity. The reference is 
not to particular vices, but to general character, as Jerusalem, 
when reproached for her iniquities, ' is spiritually called Sodom' 
(Rev. 11:8). The comparison is here made by the form of ad- 
dress. Hear the word of Jehovah, ye judges (or rulers) of Sodom, 
give ear to the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. Word 
and law both denote the revelation of God's will as a rule of 
faith and duty. The particular exhibition of it meant, is that 
which follows, and to which this verse invites attention like that 
frequent exhortation of our Saviour, He that hath ears to hear, 
let him hear. 

11. Resuming the form of interrogation and expostulation, 
he teaches them that God had no need of sacrifices on his own 
account, and that even those sacrifices which he had required 
might become offensive to him. For what (for what purpose, to 
what end, of what use) is the multitude of your sacrifices to me ? 
(i. e. offered to me, or of what use to me) saith Jehovah. I am 
full (i. e. sated, I have had enough, I desire no more) of burnt- 
offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts (fattened for the altar), 
and the blood of bullocks and lambs and he-goats I desire not (or 
delight not in). Male animals are mentioned, as the only ones 
admitted in the burnt-offering ; the fat and blood, as the parts 
in which the sacrifice essentially consisted, the one being always 
burnt upon the altar, and the other sprinkled or poured out 
around it. 


12. What had just been said of the offerings themselves, is 
now said of attendance at the temple to present them. When 
you come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand 
to tread my courts, not merely to frequent them, bat to trample 
on them, as a gesture of contempt ? The courts here meant 
are the enclosures around Solomon's temple, for the priests 
worshippers, and victims. The interrogative form implies ne- 
gation. Such appearance, such attendance, God had not re- 
quired, although it was their duty to frequent his courts. The 
word tread appears to be applied to the worshippers themselves 
in a twofold sense, which cannot be expressed by any single 
word in English. They were bound to tread his courts, but not 
to trample them. 

13. What he said before of animal sacrifices and of attend- 
ance at the temple to present them, is now extended to blood- 
less offerings, such as incense and the meal-offering, as well as 
to the observance of sacred times, and followed by a brief in- 
timation of the sense in which they were all unacceptable to 
God, viz. when combined with the practice of iniquity. The 
interrogative form is here exchanged for that of direct prohi- 
bition. Ye shall not add (i. e. continue) to bring a vain offer- 
ing (that is, a useless one, because hypocritical and impious). 
Incense is an abomination to me : (so are) new moon and sabbath, 
the calling of the convocation (at those times, or at the annual 
feasts, which are then distinctly mentioned with the weekly and 
monthly ones) : I cannot bear iniquity and holy day (abstinence 
from labor, religious observance), meaning of course, I cannot 
bear them together. This last clause is a key to the preceding 
verses. It was not religious observance in itself, but its com- 
bination with iniquity, that God abhorred. 

14. The very rights ordained by God himself, and once ac- 
ceptable to him, had, through the sin of those who used them, 


become irksome and disgusting. Your new moons (an emphatio 
repetition, as if he had said, Yes, your new moons) and your 
convocations (sabbaths and yearly feasts) my soul hateth (not a 
mere periphrasis for I hate, but an emphatio phrase denoting 
cordial hatred, they have become a burden on me (implying that 
they were not so at first). lam weary of bearing (or have wearied 
myself bearing them). The common version of the second 
clause (they are a trouble unto me) is too vague. The noun 
should have its specific sense of burden } load, and the preposi- 
tion its proper local sense of on. 

. 15. Not only ceremonial observances but even prayer was 
rendered useless by the sins of those who offered it. And in, 
your spreading (when you spread) your hands (or stretch them 
out towards heaven as a gesture of entreaty) I will hide mine 
eyes from you (avert my face, refuse to see or hear, not only in ; 
ordinary but) also when ye multiply prayer (by fervent impor- 
tunity in time of danger) I am not hearing (or about to hear, 
the participle bringing the act nearer to the present than the 
future would do). Your hands are full of blood (literally bloods f 
the form commonly used when the reference is to bloodshed or 
the guilt of murder). Thus the Prophet comes back to the 
point from which he set out, the iniquity of Israel as the cause 
of his calamities, but with this difference, that at first he viewed 
sin in its higher aspect, as committed against God, whereas in 
this place its injurious effects on men are rendered prominent. 
It is a strange opinion mentioned by Fabricius that the blood 
here meant is the blood of the victims hypocritically offered. 

16. Having shown the insufficiency of ceremonial rites and 
even of more spiritual duties to avert or cure the evils which 
the people had brought upon themselves by their iniquities, he 
exhorts them to abandon these and urges reformation. Wash 
you (the word* translated wash you is appropriated to ablution 


of the body, as distinguished from all other washings), purify 
yourselves (in a moral or figurative sense, as appears from what 
follows). Remove the evil of your doings from before mine eyes 
(out of my sight, which could only be done by putting an end to 
them, an idea literally expressed in the last clause), cease to do eviL 

17. The negative exhortation is now followed by a positive 
one. • Ceasing to do evil was not enough, or rather was not pos- 
sible, without beginning to do good. Learn to do good, imply- 
ing that they never yet had known what it was. This general 
expression is explained by several specifications, showing how 
they were to do good. Seek judgment, i. e. justice ; not in the 
abstract, but in act ; not for yourselves, but for others ; be not 
content with abstinence from wrong, but seek opportunities of 
doing justice, especially to those who cannot right themselves. 
Redress wrong, judge the fatherless, i. e. act as a judge for his 
benefit, or more specifically, do him justice ; befriend the widow, 
take her part, espouse her cause. Orphans and widows are 
continually spoken of in Scripture as special objects of divine 
compassion, and as representing the whole class of helpless in- 

18. Having shown that the cause of their ill success in seek- 
ing God was in themselves, and pointed out the only means by 
which the evil could be remedied, he now invites them to de- 
termine by experiment on which side the fault of their destruc- 
tion lay, promising pardon and deliverance to the penitent and 
threatening total ruin to the disobedient, vs. 18-20. — This 
verse contains an invitation to discuss the question whether 
God was willing or unwilling to show mercy, implying that rea- 
son as well as justice was on his side, and asserting his power 
and his willingness to pardon the most aggravated sins. Come 
now (a common formula of exhortation) and let us reason (argue 
or discuss the case) together (the form of the verb denoting a 


reciprocal action), saith Jehovah. Though your sins be us scar' 
let they shall be white as snow, though they be red as crimson they 
shall be as wool, i. e. clean white wool. Guilt being regarded 
as a stain, its removal denotes restoration to parity. The im- 
plied conclusion of the reasoning is that God's willingness to 
pardon threw the blame of their destruction on themselves. — 
The words translated crimson and scarlet are commonly com- 
bined to denote one color, and are here separated only as poeti- 
cal equivalents. 

19. The unconditional promise is now qualified and yet en- 
larged. If obedient, they should not only escape punishment 
but be highly favored. If ye consent to my terms, and hear my 
commands, implying obedience, the good of the land, its choicest 
products, ye shall eat, instead of seeing them devoured by 

20. This is the converse of the nineteenth verse, a threat cor- 
responding to the promise. And if ye refuse to comply with my 
conditions, and rebel, continue to resist my authority, by the 
sword of the enemy shall ye be eaten. This is no human menace 
but a sure prediction, for the mouth of Jehovah speaks, not man's. 

21. Here the Prophet seems to pause for a reply, and on re- 
ceiving no response to the promises and invitations of the fore- 
going context, bursts forth into a sudden exclamation at the 
change which Israel has undergone, which he then describes 
both in figurative and literal expressions, vs. 21-23. In the 
verse before us he contrasts her former state, as the chaste 
bride of Jehovah, with her present pollution, the ancient home 
of justice with the present haunt of cruelty and violence. How 
has she become an harlot (faithless to her covenant with Jehovah), 
the faithful city (including the ideas of a city and a state, urbs et 
civitas, the body politic, the church of which Jerusalem was the 


centre and metropolis), full of justice (L e. once fall), righteous- 
•ness lodged (i. e. habitually, had its home, resided) in it, and 
now murderers, as the worst class of violent wrong-doers, whose 
name suggests though it does not properly include all others. 
The particle at the beginning of the Verse is properly interrog- 
ative, but like the English how is also used to express surprise. 
4 How has she become V i. e. how could she possibly become ? 
how strange that she should become ! 

22. The change, which had just been represented under the 
figure of adultery, is now expressed by that of adulteration, first 
of silver, then of wine. Thy silver (addressing the unfaithful 
church or city) is become dross (alloy, base metal), thy wine weak- 
ened (literally cut, mutilated) with water. The essential idea 
seems to be that of impairing strength. The Septuagint applies 
this text in a literal sense to dishonest arts in the sale of wines 
and the exchange of money. But this interpretation, besides 
its un worthiness and incongruity, is set aside by the Prophet's 
own explanation of his figures, in the next verse. 

23. The same idea is now expressed in literal terms, and 
with special application to magistrates and rulers. They who 
were bound officially to suppress disorder and protest the help- 
less, were themselves greedy of gain, rebellious against God, 
and tyrannical towards man. Thy rulers are rebels and fellows 
of thieves (not merely like them or belonging to the same class, 
but accomplices, partakers of their sin), every one of them loving 
a bribe (the participle denoting present and habitual action) 
and pursuing rewards. The fatherless (as being unable to re- 
ward them, or as an object of cupidity to others) they judge not, 
and the cause of the widow cometh not unto them, or before them ; 
they will not hear it ; they will not act as judges for their ben- 
efit.. They are not simply unjust judges, they are no judges at 
all, they will not act as such, except when they can profit by it 


24. To this description of the general corruption the Prophet 
bow adds a promise of purgation, which is at the same time a • 
threatening of sorer judgments, as the appointed means by which 
the church was to be restored to her original condition, vs. 
24-<31. — In this verse the destruction of God's enemies is rep- 
resented as a necessary satisfaction to his justice. Therefore, 
because the very fountains of justice have thus become corrupt, 
saith the Lard, the word properly so rendered, Jehovah of Hosts, 
the eternal Sovereign, the mighty one of Israel, the almighty God 
who is the God of Israel, Ah, an interjection expressing both 
displeasure and concern, / will comfort myself, ease or relieve 
myself, of my adversaries, literally, from them, i. e. by ridding 
myself of them, and I will avenge myself of mine enemies, not 
foreign foes, of whom there is no mention in the context, but 
the enemies of God among the Jews themselves. 

. 25. The mingled promise and threatening is repeated under 
one of the figures used in v. 22. The adulterated silver must 
be purified by the separation of its impure particles. And I 
will turn my hand upon thee, i. e. take thee in hand, address 
myself to thy case, and, will purge out thy dross like purity itself, 
L e. most purely, thoroughly, and will take away all thine alloy, 
tin, lead, or .other base metal found in combination with the 
precious ores. Although to turn the hand has elsewhere an un- 
favourable sense (Ps. 81 : 14. Amos 1 : 8), it does not of itself 
express it, but simply means to take in hand, address one's self 
to any thing, make it the object of attention. 

26, Here again the figurative promise is succeeded by a literal 
one of restoration to a former state of purity, to be effected not 
by the conversion of the wicked rulers but by filling their pla- 
ces with better men. And I will restore, bring back, cause to 
return, thy judges, rulers, as at first, in the earliest and test 
days of the commonwealth, and thy counsellors, ministers of state, 


as in, the beginning, after which it shall be coiled to thee,* Hebrew 
idiom for thou shall be called, i. e. deservedly, with truth, City 
if Righteousness, a Faithful State, Thcp is here a twofold al- 
lusion to v. 21. She who from being a faithful wife had be- 
come an adulteress or harlot, should again be what she was ; and 
justice which once dwelt in her should return to its old home. 

27. Thus far the promise to God's faithful people and the 
threatening to his enemies among them had been intermingled, 
or so expressed as to involve each other. Thus the promise of 
purification to the silver involved a threatening of destruction 
to the dross. But now the two elements of the prediction are 
exhibited distinctly, and first the promise to the church. Zion, 
the chosen people, as a whole, here considered as consisting of 
believers only, shall be redeemed, delivered from destruction, in 
judgment, i. e. in the exercise of justice upon God's part, and 
her converts, those of her who return to God by true repentance, 
in righteousness, here used as an equivalent to justice. The 
verse means that the very same events, by which the divine 
justice was to manifest itself in the destruction of the wicked, 
should be the occasion and the means of deliverance to Zion 
or the true people of God. 

28. The other element is now brought out, viz. the destruc- 
tion of the wicked, which was to be simultaneous and coinci- 
dent with the deliverance promised to God's people in the verse 
preceding. And the breaking, crushing, utter ruin, of apostates, 
revolters, deserters from Jehovah, and sinners, is or shall be 
together, L e. at the same time with Z ion's redemption, and the 
forsakers of Jehovah, an equivalent expression to apostates in the 
first clause, shall cease, come to an end, be totally destroyed. 
The terms of this verse are appropriate to all kinds of sin, but 
seem to be peculiarly descriptive of idolatry, as defection or 
desertion from the true God to idols, and thus prepare the way. 



for the remainder of the chapter, in which that class of trans- 
gressors are made prominent. The same judgments which 
destroyed the wickedfjhould redeem the righteous, or in other 
words, that the purification of the church could be effected only 
by the excision of her wicked members. 

29. From the final destruction of idolaters the Prophet now 
reverts to their present security and confidence in idols, which 
he tells them shall be put to shame and disappointment. For 
they shall be ashamed of the oaks or terebinths which ye have de- 
sired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens which ye haw 
chosen as places of idolatrous worship. As these are terms con- 
stantly employed to express the frustration of religious trust, 
and as groves and gardens are continually spoken of as chosen 
scenes of idol- worship (see, for example, ch 65 : 3. 66 : 17. 
Ezek. 6:13. Hos. 4 : 13), there can be little doubt that both 
this verse and the one preceding have particular allusion to 

30. The mention of trees and gardens, as places of idolatrous 
worship, suggests a beautiful comparison, under which the de- 
struction of the idolaters is again set forth. They who choose 
trees and gardens, in preference to God's appointed place of 
worship, shall themselves be like trees and gardens, but in the 
most alarming sense. For, in answer to the tacit question why 
they should be ashamed and confounded for their oaks and 
gardens, ye yourselves shall be like an oak or terebinth, fading, 
decaying, in its leaf or as to its leaf and like a garden which has 
no water, a lively emblem, to an oriental reader, of entire deso- 
lation. — Some writers understand the Prophet to allude to the 
terebinth when dead, on the ground that it never sheds its 
leaves when living ; but according to Robinson and Smith (Bib. 
Res. vol. iii p. 15), the terebinth or u butm is not an ever* 


green, as is often represented ; its small, feathered, lancet-shaped 
leaves fall in the autumn and are renewed in the spring." • 

31. This verse contains a closing threat of sudden, total, in- 
stantaneous destruction to the Jewish idolaters, to be occa- 
sioned by the very things which they preferred to God, and in 
which they confided. And the strong, the mighty man, alluding 
no doubt to the unjust rulers of the previous context, shall be- 
come tow, an exceedingly inflammable substance, and his work, 
his idols, often spoken, of in Scripture as the work of men's 
hands, shall become a spark, the means and occasion of destruc- 
tion to their worshippers, and they shall burn both of them to- 
gether, and there shall shall be no one quenching or to quench 
them. The frequent mention of idols as the work of men's 
hands, and the prominence given to idolatry in the immediately' 
preceding context, seem to justify us in understanding the 
whole verse as a prediction that the very gods, in whom the 
strong men of Jerusalem now trusted, should involve their wor- 
shippers and makers with themselves in total, instantaneous, 
irrecoverable ruin. 


These chapters constitute the second prophecy, the two 
grand themes of which are the reign of the Messiah and inter- 
vening judgments on the Jews for their iniquities. The first 
and greatest of these subjects occupies the smallest space, but 
stands both at the opening and the close of the whole prophecy. 
Considered in relation to its subject, it may therefore be conve- 
niently divided into three unequal parts. In the first, the. 


Prophet foretells the future exaltation of the church and the 
accession of the gentiles, ch. 2 : 1-4. In the second, he sets 
forth the actual condition of the church and its inevitable con- 
sequences, ch. 2 : 5 — 4 : I. In the third, he reverts to its pure, 
safe, and glorious condition under the Messiah, ch. 4 : 2-6. 
The division of the chapters is peculiarly unfortunate, the last 
verse of the second and the first of the fourth being both dis- 
severed from their proper context. As the state of things 
which this chapter describes could scarcely have existed in the 
prosperous reigns of Uzziah and Jotham or in the pious reign 
of Hezekiah, it is referred with much probability to the reign 
of Ahaz, when Judah was dependent on a foreign power and 
corrupted by its intercourse with heathenism. The particular 
grounds of this conclusion will appear in the course of the inter- 


This chapter contains an introductory prediction of the reign 
of the Messiah, and the first part of a threatening against 

After a title similar to that in ch. 1:1, the Prophet sees the 
church, at some distant period, exalted and conspicuous, and the 
nations resorting to it for instruction in the true religion, as a 
consequence of which he sees war cease and universal peace 
prevail, vs. 2-4. 

These verses are found, with very little variation, in the 
fourth chapter of Micah (vs. 1-3), to explain which some sup- 
pose, that a motto or quotation has been accidentally transfer- 
red from the margin to the text of Isaiah ; others, that both 
Prophets quote from Joel ; others, that both quote from an 
older writer now unknown; others, that Micah quotes from 
Isaiah ; others, that Isaiah quotes from Micah. This diversity 


of judgment may at least suffice to show how Tain conjecture 
is in such a case. The close connection of the passage with 
the context, as it stands in Micah, somewhat favors the conclu- 
sion that Isaiah took the text or theme of his prediction from 
the younger though contemporary Prophet The verbal vari- 
ations may be best explained, however, by supposing that they 
both adopted a traditional prediction current among the people 
in their day, or that both received the words direotly from the 
Holy Spirit So long as we have reason to regard both places 
as authentic and inspired, it matters little what is the literary 
history of either. , 

At the close of this prediction, whether borrowed or original, 
the Prophet suddenly reverts to the condition of the church in 
his own times, so different from that which had been just fore* 
told, and begins a description of the present guilt and future 
punishment of Judah, which extends not only through this 
chapter but the next, including the first verse of the fourth. 
The part contained in the remainder of this chapter may be 
subdivided into two unequal portions, one containing a descrip- 
tion of the sin, the other a prediction of the punishment. 
, The first begins with an exhortation to the Jews themselves 
to walk in that light which the gentiles were so eagerly to seek 
hereafter, v. 5. The Prophet then explains this exhortation by 
describing three great evils which the foreign alliances of Ju- 
dah had engendered, namely, superstitious practices and occult 
arts ; unbelieving dependence upon foreign wealth and power ; 
and idolatry itself, vs. 6-8. 

The rest of the chapter has respect to the punishment of 
these great sins. This is first described generally as humilia- 
tion, such as they deserved who humbled themselves to idols, 
and such as tended to the exclusive exaltation of Jehovah, 
both by contrast and by the display of his natural and moral 
attributes, vs. 9-11. This general threatening is then ampli- 
fied in a detailed enumeration of exalted objects which should 


be brought low, ending again with a prediction of Jehovah's 
exaltation in the same words as before, so as to form a kind of 
choral or strophical arrangement, vs. 12-17. The destruction 
or rather the rejection of idols, as contemptible and useless, is 
then explicitly foretold, as an accompanying circumstance of 
men's flight from the avenging presence of Jehovah, vs. 18-21. 
Here again the strophical arrangement reappears in the pre- 
cisely similar conclusions of the nineteenth and twenty-first 
verses, so that the twenty-second is as clearly unconnected 
with this chapter in form, as it is closely connected with the 
next in sense. 

1. This is the title of the second prophecy, ch. 2-4. The 
word, revelation or divine communication, which Isaiah the son 
of Amoz saw, perceived, received by inspiration, concerning Ju- 
dah and Jerusalem. Word is here a synonyme of vision in ch. 
1:1. For the technical use of word and vision in the sense of 
prophecy, see 1 Sam. 3:1. Jer. 18 : 18. 

2. The prophecy begins with an abrupt prediction of the ex- 
altation of the church, the confluence of nations to it, and a 
general pacification as the consequence, vs. 2-4. In this verse 
the Prophet sees the church permanently placed in a conspic- 
uous position, so as to be a source of attraction to surrounding 
nations. To express this idea, he makes use of terms which 
are strictly applicable only to the local habitation of the church 
under the old economy. Instead of saying, in modern phrase- 
ology, that the church, as a society, shall become conspicuous 
and attract all nations, he represents the mountain upon which 
the temple stood as being raised and fixed above the other 
mountains, so as to be visible in all directions. And it shall be 
(happen, come to pass, a prefatory formula of constant use in 
prophecy) in the end (or latter part) of the days (i. e. hereafter) 
the mountain of Jehovah's house (i. e. mount Zion, in the widest 


sense, including mount Moriah where the temple stood) shall 
be established (permanently fixed) in the head of the mountains 
(i. e. above them), and exalted from (away from and by implication 
more than or higher than) the hills (a poetical equivalent to moun- 
tains), and the nations shall flow unto it. It was not to be es- 
tablished on the top of the mountains, but either at the head or 
simply high among the mountains, which idea is expressed by 
other words in the parallel clause, and by the same words in 1 
Kings 21 : 10, 12. The verb in the last clause is always used 
to signify a confluence of nations. 

3. This confluence of nations is described more fully, and its 
motive stated in their own words, namely, a desire to be in- 
structed in the true religion, of which Jerusalem or Zion, under 
the old dispensation, was the sole depository. And many nations 
shall go (set out, put themselves in motion) and shall say (to 
one another), Go ye (as a formula of exhortation, where the 
English idiom requires come), and we will ascend (or let us as- 
cend, for which the Hebrew has no other form) to the mountain 
of Jehovah (where his house is, where he dwells), to the house of 
the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways (the ways in 
which he requires us to walk), and we will go in his paths (a 
synonymous expression). For out of Zion shall go forth law 
(the true religion, as a rule of duty), and the word of Jehovah 
(the true religion as a revelation) from Jerusalem. These last 
words may be either the words of the gentiles, telling why they 
looked to Zion as a source of saving knowledge, or the words 
of the Prophet, telling why the truth must be thus diffused, 
namely, because it had been given to the church for this very 
purpose. The eommon version many people conveys to a mod- 
ern ear the wrong sense many persons, and was only used for 
want of such a plural form as peoples, which, though employed 
by Lowth and others, has never become current, and was cer- 
tainly not so when the Bible was translated, as appear? from 


the circumlocution used instead of it in Gen, 25 : 23. The plu- 
ral form is here essential to the meaning. Go is not here 
used as the opposite of come, but as denoting active motion. 
The word ascend is not used in reference to an alleged Jewish 
notion that the Holy Land was physically higher than ail other 
countries, nor simply to the natural site of Jerusalem, nor even 
to its moral elevation as the seat of the true religion, bat to the 
new elevation and conspicuous position just ascribed to it. 
The subjunctive construction that he may teach is rather para- 
ph rastical and exegetical than simply expressive of the sense 
of the original, which implies hope as well as purpose. 

4. He who appeared in the preceding verses as the lawgiver 
and teacher of the nations, is now represented as an arbiter or 
umpire, ending their disputes by a pacific intervention, as a ne- 
cessary consequence of which war ceases, the very knowledge of 
the art is lost, and its implements applied to other uses. This 
prediction was not fulfilled in the general peace under Au- 
gustus, which was only temporary; nor is it now fulfilled. 
The event is suspended on a previous condition, viz. the conflu- 
ence of the nations to the church, which has not yet taken 
place ; a strong inducement to diffuse the gospel, which, in the 
meantime, is peaceful in its spirit, tendency, and actual effect, 
wherever and so far as it exerts its influence without obstruc- 
tion. And he shall judge (or arbitrate) between the nations, and 
decide for (or respecting) many peoples. And they shall beat their 
swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks. 
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they 
learn war any more. The whole idea meant to be expressed is 
the conversion of martial weapons into implements of husban- 
dry. Hook, in old English, is a crooked knife, such as a sickle, 
which is not however here meant, but a knife for pruning vines. 
Not learning war is something more than not continuing to 
practise it, and signifies their ceasing to know how to practise it 


To judge is here not to rule which is too vague, nor to punish 
which is too specific, but to arbitrate or act as umpire, as appears 
from the effect described, and also from the use of the preposi- 
tion, meaning not merely among, with reference to the sphere 
of jurisdiction, but between, with reference to contending parties. 

5. From this distant prospect of the calling of the gentiles, 
the Prophet now reverts to his*own times and countrymen, and 
calls upon them not to be behind the nations in the use of their 
distinguishing advantages. If even the heathen were one day 
to be enlightened, surely they who were already in possession of 
the light ought to make use of it. O house of Jacob (family of 
Israel the church or chosen people) come ye (literally go ye, as 
in v. 3) and we will go (or let us walk, including himself in the 
exhortation) in the light of Jehovah (in the path of truth and 
duty upon which the light of revelation shines). The light . 
is mentioned as a common designation of the Scriptures and 
of Christ himself. (Prov. 6 : 23. Ps. 1 19 : 105. Isai. 51:4. 
Acts 26 : 23. 2 Cor. 4 : 4.) 

6. The exhortation in v. 5 implied that the Jews were not 
actually walking in God's light, but were alienated from him, a 
fact which is now explicitly asserted and the reason of it given, 
viz. illicit intercourse with foreign nations, as evinced by the 
adoption of their superstitious practices, reliance on their mar- 
tial and pecuniary aid, and last but worst of all, the worship 
of their idols. In this verse, the first of these effects is ascribed 
to intercourse with those eastern countries, which are always 
represented by the ancients as the cradle of the occult arts 
and sciences. As if he had said, I thus exhort, Lord, thy 
chosen people, because thou hast forsaken thy people, because they 
are replenished from the East and (full of) soothsayers like the Phil- 
istines, and with the children of strangers they abound. From the 
east denotes not mere influence or imitation, but an actual in- 


flax of diviners from that quarter. The Philistines are" here 
mentioned rather by way of comparison than as an actual source 
of the corruption. That the Jews were familiar with their su- 
perstitions may be learned from 1 Sam. 6:2. 2 Kings 1:2 — 
The last verb does not mean they please themselves, but they 
abound. By children of strangers we are not to understand the 
fruits, i. e. doctrines and practices of strangers. It rather 
means strangers themselves, not'strange gods or their children, 
i. e. worshippers, but foreigners considered as descendants of a 
strange stock, and therefore as aliens from the commonwealth 
of Israel. 

7. The second proof of undue intercourse with heathen na- 
tions, which the Prophet mentions, is the influx of foreign 
money and of foreign troops, with which he represents the land 
.as filled. And his land (referring to the singular noun people 
in v. 6) is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to his 
treasures ; and his land is filled with horses, and there is no end 
to his chariots. — The common interpretation makes this verse 
descriptive of domestic wealth and luxury. But these would 
hardly have been placed between the superstitions and the 
idols, with which Judah had been flooded from abroad. ' Be- 
sides, this interpretation fails to account for gold and silver 
being here combined with horses and chariots. Some suppose 
the latter to be mentioned only as articles of luxury ; but as 
such they are never mentioned elsewhere, not even in the case 
of Absalom and Naaman, both of whom were military chiefs as 
well as nobles. Even the chariots of the peaceful Solomon 
were probably designed for martial show. The horses and 
chariots of the Old Testament are horses and chariots of war. 
The common riding animals were mules and asses, the latter of 
which, as contrasted with the horse, are emblematic of peace 
(Zech. 9:9. Matt. 21 : 7). But on the supposition that the 
verse has reference to undue dependence upon foreign powers, 


the money and the armies of the latter would be. naturally 
named together. J^ms understood, this verse affords no proof 
that the prophecy belongs to the prosperous reign of Uzziah or 
Jotham, since it merely represents the land as flooded with 
foreign gold and foreign troops, a description rather applicable 
to the reign of Ahaz. The form of expression, too, suggests the 
idea of a recent acquisition, as the strict sense of the verb is 
not it is full, nor even it is filled, but it was or has been filled. 

8. The third and greatest evil flowing from this intercourse 
with foreign nations was idolatry itself, which was usually intro- 
duced under the cloak of mere political alliances (see e. g. 
2 Kings 16:10). Here as elsewhere the terms used to describe it 
are contemptuous in a high degree. And his land is filled with 
idols (properly nonentities, ' gods which yet are no gods/ Jer. 
2:11; ' for we know that an idol is nothing in the world/ 
1 Cor. 8 : 4), to the work of their hands they bow down, to that 
which their fingers have made, one of the great absurdities 
charged by the Prophets on idolaters, " as if that could be a 
god to them which was not only a creature but their own crea- 
ture" (Matthew Henry). 

9. Here the Prophet passes from the sin to its punishment, 
or rather simultaneously alludes to both, the verbs in the first 
clause being naturally applicable as well to voluntary humilia- 
tion in sin as to compulsory humiliation in punishment, while 
the verb in the last clause would suggest of course to a Jewish 
reader the twofold idea of pardoning and lifting up. They who 
bowed themselves to idols should be bowed down by the mighty 
hand of God, instead of being raised up from their wilful self- 
abasement by the pardon of their sins. The relative futures 
denote not only succession in time but the relation of cause 
and effect. And so ( by this means, for this reason) the mean 
man (not in the modern but the old sense of inferior, low in 


rank) is bowed down, and the great man is brought low, and do 
not thou ( Lord) forgive them. This p^cr, for such it it, 
may be understood as expressing, not so much the Prophet's 
own desire, as the certainty of the event, arising from the right- 
eousness of God. 

10. Instead of simply predicting that their sinful course 
should be interrupted by a terrible manifestation of God's pres- 
ence, the Prophet views him as already come or near at hand, 
and addressing the people as an individual, or singling out one 
of their number, exhorts him to take refuge under ground or 
in the rocks, an advice peculiarly significant in Palestine, a 
country full of caves, often used, if not originally made, for this 
very purpose (1 Sam. 13 : 6. 14 : 11. Judg. 6:2). Go into 
the rock and hide thee in the dust, from before the terror of Jehovah 
and from the glory of his majesty. The nouns in the last clause 
differ, according to their derivation, very much as sublimity and 
beauty do in English, and express in combination the idea of 
sublime beauty or beautiful sublimity. The tone of this ad* 
dress is not sarcastic but terrific. By the terror of Jehovah seems 
to be intended not the feeling of fear which he inspires bat some 
terrible manifestation of his presence. The preposition, there- 
fore, should not be taken in the vague sense of for, on account 
of % but in its proper local sense of from, before, or from before. 

11. As the Prophet, in the preceding verse, views the terror 
of Jehovah as approaohing, so here he views it as already past, 
and describes the effect which it has wrought. The eyes if the 
loftiness of man (i. e. his haughty looks) are cast down, and the 
height (or pride) of men is brought low, and Jehovah alone is ex- 
alted in that day, not only in fact, but in the estimation of his 
creatures, as the passive form here used may intimate. 

12. The general threatening of humiliation is now applied 


specifically to a variety of lofty objects in which the people 
might be supposed. to delight and trust, vs. 12-16. This enu- 
meration is connected with what goes before, by an explanation 
of the phrase used at the close of the eleventh verse. I say 
that day, /or there is a day to Jehovah of Hosts (i. e. an appoint- 
ed time for the manifestation of his power) upon (or against) 
every thing high and lofty, and upon every thing exalted, and it 
comes (or shall come) down. There is a day to Jehovah, i. e. he 
has a day, has it appointed, has it in reserve. The version every 
one, restricts the phrase too much to persons, which is only a 
part of the idea conveyed by the expression every thing. 

. 13. To convey the idea of lofty and imposing objects, the 
Prophet makes use, not of symbols but of specimens selected 
from among the things of this class most familiar to his read- 
ers, beginning with the two noblest species of forest-trees. And 
on all the cedars of Lebanon (or the White Mountain, the chain 
dividing Palestine from Syria), and on all the oaks of Bashan 
(now called El Bethenyeh, a mountainous district, east of Jor- 
dan, famous of old for its pastures and oak-forests). Cedars 
and oaks are supposed by some to be here named, as emblems 
of great men in general, or of the great men of Syria and 
Israel distinctively ; but this is not in keeping with the subse- 
quent context, in which some things are mentioned, which can- 
not be understood as emblems, but only as samples of their 
several classes. On the trees and places mentioned in this 
verse, see Robinson's Palestine, vol. iii. p. 440, and Appendix, 
p. 158. 

14. The mention of Lebanon and Bashan in v. 13 now leads 
to that of mountains in general, as lofty objects in themselves, 
and therefore helping to complete the general conception of 
high things, which the Prophet threatens with humiliation. 
And upon ail the high mountains and upon all the elevated hills. 


This must be explained as an additional specification of thai- 
general statement in v. 12, that every high thing should be hum- 

15. To trees and hills he now adds walls and towers, as a 
third class of objects with which the ideas of loftiness and 
strength are commonly associated. And upon every high lower 
and upon every fenced wall, literally, cut off, i. e. rendered inac- 
cessible by being fortified. 

16. The Prophet now concludes his catalogue of lofty and. 
conspicuous objects by adding, first, as a specific item, maritime 
vessels of the largest class, and then a general expression, sum- 
ming up the whole in one descriptive phrase, as things attractive 
and imposing to the eye. And upon all ships of Tars his h (such as 
were built to navigate the whole length of the Mediterranean sea)' 
and upon all images (i. e. visible objects) of desire, or rather 
admiration and delight. It is a very old opinion that Tarshish 
means the sea, and ships of Tarshish sea-faring vessels, as dis- 
tinguished from mere coast or river craft. From the earliest 
times, however, it has also been explained as the name of a 
place, either Tarsus in Gilicia or Cilicia itself, or Carthage, or a 
port in Ethiopia, or Africa in general, or a port in India, or,, 
which is now the common opinion, Tartessus, a Phenician set- 
tlement in the south-west of Spain, between the mouths of the 
Baetis or Guadalquivir, sometimes put for the extreme west 
(Ps. 72 : 10). As the principal maritime trade, with which the 
Hebrews were acquainted, was to this region, ships of Tarshish 
would suggest the idea of the largest class of vessels, justly in- 
cluded in this catalogue of lofty and imposing object* To 
suppose a direct allusion either to commercial wealth or naval 
strength, is inconsistent with the context, although these ideas 
would of course be suggested by association. Most writers un- 
derstand the last clause, like the first, as a specific addition to 

A..i : .. . . .... ' ■ ._• * * * •* „•- ■ ■ *• 


the foregoing catalogue, denoting some particular object or class 
of objects, such as pictures, statues, lofty images or obelisks, pal- 
aces, tapestry, and ships. But this indefinite diversity of ex- 
planation, as well as the general form of the expression, makes 
it probable that this clause, notwithstanding the parallelism, 
was intended as a general expression for such lofty and impo- 
sing objects as had just been enumerated, — ' cedars, oaks, moun- 
tains, hills, towers, walls, ships, and in short, all attractive and 
majestic objects. 1 

17. This verse, by repeating the terms of v. 11, brings us 
back from details to the general proposition which they were 
designed to illustrate and enforce, and at the same time has 
the effect of a strophical arrangement, in which the same burden 
or chorus recurs at stated intervals. And (thus, by this means, 
or in this way) shall the loftiness of man be cast down, and the 
pride of men be brought low, and Jehovah alone be exalted in that 
day. Or retaining the form of the first two verbs, which are 
not passive but neuter, and exchanging the future for the pres- 
ent, the sentence may be thus translated. So smks the lofti- 
ness of man and bows the pride of men, and Jehovah alone is ex- 
alted in that day. 

18. To the humiliation of all lofty things the Prophet now 
adds the entire disappearance of their idols. And the idols (as 
for the idols) the whole shall pass away. The brevity of this 
verse, consisting of a single clause, has been commonly regarded 
as highly emphatic and, as some think, sarcastic. 

19. This verse differs from the tenth only by substituting a 
direct prediction for a warning or exhortation, and by adding 
the design of God's terrible appearance. And they (the idola- 
ters, or men indefinitely) shall enter into the caves of the rocks 

« and into, the holes, of., the, earth, from before . the terror . of Jehovah 


and the glory of his majesty in his arising (L e. when he trims) 
to terrify the earth. The first word rendered earth is the same 
that was translated dust in y. 10, but even there it signifies the 
solid surface rather than the crumbling particles which we call 
dust The most exact translation would perhaps be ground. 
God is said to arise when he addresses himself to any thing, es- 
pecially after a season of apparent inaction. 

20. This is an amplification of v. 18, explaining how the ijofe 
were to disappear, viz. by being thrown away in haste, terror, 
shame, and desperate contempt, by those who had worshipped 
them and trusted in them, as a means of facilitating their es- 
cape from the avenging presence of Jehovah. In that day shall 
man cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold (here named as 
the most splendid and expensive, in order to make the act of 
throwing them away still more significant) which they have made 
(an indefinite construction, equivalent in meaning to which have 
been made) for him to worship, to the moles and to the bats (a pro- 
verbial expression for contemptuous rejection.) The idols made 
for them to worship they shall cast to the moles and bats, not 
to idolaters still blinder than themselves, but to literal moles 
and bats, or the spots which they frequent, i. e. dark and filthy 
places. Moles and bats are put together on account of their 
defect of sight. 

21 < Continuing the sentence, he declares the end for which 
they should throw away their idols, namely, to save themselves, 
casting them off as worthless incumbrances in order the more 
quickly to take refuge in the rocks. To go into the clefts of the 
rocks, and into the fissures of the cliffs (or crags) from before the 
terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty in his. arising 
to terrify the earth, or as Lowth more poetically renders it, to 
strike the earth with terror. — The final recurrence of the same 
.re/rara. which closed the. eleventh. and seventeenth verses, marks 


the conclusion of the choral or strophical arrangement at this 
verse, the next beginning a new context 

22. Having predicted that the people would soon lose their 
confidence in idols, be now shows the folly of transferring that 
confidence to human patrons, by a general statement of man's 
weakness and mortality, explained and amplified in the fol- 
lowing chapter. Cease ye from man (i. e. cease to trust him 
or depend upon him) whose breath is in his nostrils (i. e. whose 
life is transient and precarious, with obvious allusion to Geo. 
2 : 7) for wherein is he to be accounted of (or at what rate is he to 
be valued)? The interrogation forcibly implies that man's 
protection cannot be relied upon. — In the Septuagint this 
verse is wholly wanting, and some suppose the translators to 
have left it out, as being an unwelcome truth to kings and 
princes ; but such a motive must have led to much more exten- 
sive expurgation of unpalatable scriptures. It is found in the 
other ancient versions and its genuineness has not been dispu- 
ted. — To cease from is to let alone ; in what specific sense must 
be determined by the context (compare 2 Chron. 35 : 21 with 
Prov. 23 : 4). 


This chapter continues the threatenings against Judah on 
account of the prevailing iniquities, with special reference to fe- 
male pride and luxury. 

The Prophet first explains his exhortation at the close of the 
last chapter, by showing that God was about to take away the 
leading men of Judah and to let it fall into a state of anarchy, 
vs. 1-7. He then shows that this was the effect of sin, particu- 
larly that of wicked rulers, vs. 8-15. He then exposes in d** 





tail the pride and luxury of the Jewish women, and threatens 
them not only with the loss of that in which they now delighted, 
but with widowhood, captivity, and degradation, v. 16 — 4 : 1. 

The first part opens with a general prediction of the loss of 
what they trusted in, beginning with the necessary means of 
subsistence, v. 1. We have the*n an enumeration of the public 
men who were about to be removed, including civil, military, and 
religious functionaries, with the practitioners of certain arts, vs. 
2, 3. As the effect of this removal, the government falls into 
incompetent hands, v. 4. This is followed by insubordination 
and confusion, v. 5. At length, no one is willing to accept pub- 
lic office, the people are wretched, and the commonwealth a ruin, 
vs. 6, 7. 

This ruin is declared to be the consequence of sin, and the 
people represented as their own destroyers, vs. 8, 9. God's 
judgments, it is true, are not indiscriminate. The innocent 
shall not perish with the guilty, but the guilty must suffer, vs. 
10, 11. Incompetent and faithless rulers must especially be 
punished, who instead of being the guardians are spoilers of 
the vineyard, instead of protectors the oppressors of the poor, 
vs. 12-15. 

As a principal cause of these prevailing evils, the Prophet 
now denounces female luxury and threatens it with condign 
punishment, privation and disgrace, vs. 16, 17. This general 
denunciation is then amplified at great length, in a detailed 
enumeration of the ornaments which were about to be taken 
from them and succeeded by the badges of captivity and mourn- 
ing, vs. 18-24. The agency to be employed in this retribution 
is a disastrous war, by which the men are to be swept off and 
the country left desolate, vs. 25, 26. The extent of this ca- 
lamity is represented by a lively exhibition of the dispropor- 
tion between the male survivors and the other sex, suggesting 
at the same time the forlorn condition of the widows of the 
slain, chap. 4: 1. 


1. This verse assigns as a reason for the exhortation in the 
one preceding, that God was about to take away from the 
people every ground of reliance, natural and moraL Cease 
ye from man, i. e. cease to trust in any human protection, for 
behold (implying a proximate futurity) the Lord (God considered 
as a sovereign) Jehovah of Hosts (as self-existent and eternal, 
and at the same time as the God of revelation and the God of 
his people) is taking away (or about to take away) from Jeru- 
salem and from Judah (not only from the capital but from the 
whole kingdom) the stay and the staff (i. e. all kinds of support, 
and first of all) the whole stay of bread and the whole stay of 
water (the natural and necessary means of subsistence). The 
terms are applicable either to a general famine produced by 
natural causes, or to a scarcity arising from invasion or block- 
ade, such as actually took place when Judah was overrun by 
Nebuchadnezzar) 2 Kings 25 : 4. Jer. 52 : 6. 38 : 9. Lam. 4 : 4). — 
Instead of the whole stay, prose usage would require every stay. 
But the other construction is sustained by the analogy of the 
whole head and the whole heart, ch. 1 : 5, and by the impossibil- 
ity of expressing this idea otherwise without circumlocution. — 
The old version stay and staff is an approximation to the form 
of the original, in which a masculine and feminine form of the 
same noun are combined, by an idiom common in Arabic and 
not unknown in Hebrew, to denote universality, or rather all 
kinds of the object named. 

2. Next to the necessary means of subsistence, the Prophet 
enumerates the great men of the commonwealth, vs. 2, 3. The 
first clause has reference to military strength, the second to civil 
and religious dignities. In the second clause there is an in- 
verse parallelism, the first and fourth terms denoting civil offi- 
cers, the second and third religious ones. The omission of the 
article before the nouns, though not uncommon in poetry, adds 
much to the rapidity and life of the description. Hero and 


warrior, judge and prophet, and divine and elder. That the first 
is not a generic term including all that follow (the great men, 
viz. the warriors, etc.) is clear from the parallelism, the terms 
heing arranged in pairs as often elsewhere, (ch. 11:2. 19:3, 
6-9. 22 : 12, 13. 42 : 19). The idea here expressed is not sim- 
ply that of personal strength and prowess hut the higher one 
of military eminence or heroism. — The literal version of the 
next phrase, man of war, has acquired a different sense in mod- 
ern English. It may here denote either a warrior of high rank, 
as synonymous with mighty man, or one of ordinary rank, as 
distinguished from it. Judge may either he taken in its re- 
stricted modern sense or in the wider one of magistrate or 
ruler. The people are threatened with the loss of all their 
stays, good or had, true or false. The last word in the verse is 
not to he taken in its primary and proper sense of old man, 
much less in the factitious one of sage, or wise man, since all 
the foregoing terms are titles denoting rank and office, hut in 
its secondary sense of elder or hereditary chief, and as such a 
magistrate under the patriarchal system. It is here equivalent 
or parallel to judge, the one term denoting the functions of the 
office, the other the right hy which it was held. 

3. To persons of official rank and influence, the Prophet 
adds, in order to complete his catalogue, practitioners of those 
arts upon which the people set most value. As the prophet and 
diviner stand together in v. 2, so mechanical and magical arts are 
put together here. The first clause simply finishes the list of 
public functionaries which had been begun in the preceding 
verse. The chief of fifty* and the favourite, and the counsellor, and 
the skilful artificer, and the expert enchanter. — The first title is 
derived from the decimal arrangement of the people in the wil- 
derness for judicial purposes (Exod. 18 : 25, 26), but is after- 
wards used only as a military title. The next phrase literally 
signifies lifted up incamUnance, which is commonly understood 


as a description of an eminent or honourable person. Bat as the 
same words are employed to signify respect of persons or judi- 
cial partiality, the phrase may here denote one highly favoured 
by a sovereign, a royal favourite (2 Kings 5:1. Lev. 19 : 15, 
Deut. 10 : 17. Job 13 : 10. Mai. 2 : 9), or respected, reverenced 
by the people (Lam. 4:16. Deut. 28 : 50). — The counsellor here 
meant is not a private or professional adviser, but a public 
counsellor or minister of state. The last word in the verse is 
taken strictly, as denoting a ' whisper' or the act of whispering, 
by some ; but in its secondary sense of incantation, with allu- 
sion to the mutterings and whisperings which formed a part of 
magical ceremonies, by most modern writers. 

4. The natural consequence of the removal of the leading men 
must be the rise of incompetent successors, persons without 
capacity, experience, or principle, a change which is here as- 
cribed to God's retributive justice. And I will give children, to 
be their rulers, and childish things shall govern them. Some ap- 
ply this, in a strict sense, to the weak and wicked reign of 
Ahaz ; others in a wider sense to the series of weak kings af- 
ter Isaiah. But there is no need of restricting it to kings at 
all. The most probable opinion is that the incompetent rulers 
are called boys or children not in respect to age but char- 

5. As the preceding verse describes bad government, so this 
describes anarchy, the suspension of all government, and a con- 
sequent disorder in the relations of society, betraying itself in 
mutual violence, and in the disregard of natural and artificial 
claims to deference. And the people shall act tyrannically, man 
against man, and man against his fellow. They shall be inso- 
lent, the youth to the old man, and the mean man to the noble. 
On contempt of old age, as a sign of barbarism, see Lam. 4 : 16, 
Bent 28 : 50. 


6. Having predicted the removal of those qualified to govern, 
the rise of incompetent successors, and a consequent insubordi- 
nation and confusion, the Prophet now describes this last as 
having reached such a height that no one is willing to hold 
office, or, as Matthew Henry says, " the government goes a beg- 
ging." This verse, notwithstanding its length, seems to contain 
only the protasis or conditional clause of the sentence, in which 
the commonwealth is represented as a ruin, and the task of 
managing it pressed upon one living in retirement, on the ground 
that he still possesses decent raiment, a lively picture both of 
general anarchy and general wretchedness. When a man shall 
take hold of his brother (i. e. one man of another) in his father's 
house (at home in a private station, saying) thou hast raiment, a 
ruler shall thou be to us, and this ruin (shall be) under thy hand 
(i. e. under thy power, control, and management). It is equal- 
ly consistent with the syntax and the usage of the words to 
understand the man as addressing his brother, in the proper 
sense, or in that of a near kinsman, of or belonging to the 
house of his (the speaker's) father, i. e. one of the same- fa- 
mily. But the offer would then seem to be simply that of head- 
ship or chieftainship over a family or house, whereas a wider 
meaning is required by the connection. Some explain the 
phrase as meaning thou art rich, because clothing forms a 
large part of oriental wealth. But others understand the 
words more probably as meaning ' thou hast still a garment,' 
whereas we have none, implying general distress as well as 

7. This verse contains the refusal of the invitation given in 
the one preceding. In that day he shall lift up (his voice in re- 
ply) saying I will not be a healer, and in my house there is no 
bread, and there is no clothing ; ye shall not make me a ruler of 
people. In that day may either mean at once, without delibera- 
tion, or continue the narrative without special emphasis. Some 


supply hand after lift up, as a gesture of swearing, or the name 
of God as in the third commandment, and understand the 
phrase to mean that he shall swear. But the great majority of 
writers supply voice, some in the specific sense of answering, or 
in the simple sense of uttering, but others with more probability 
in that of speaking with a loud voice, or distinctly and with 
emphasis, he shall protest,or openly declare. The whole connex- 
ion seems to show that this is a profession of great poverty, 
which, if true, shows more clearly the condition of the people, 
and if false, the general aversion to office. The last clause 
does not simply mean do not make me, but you must not, or yon 
shall not make me a ruler. 

8. The Prophet here explains bis use of the word ruin in 
reference to the commonwealth of Israel, by declaring that it had 
in fact destroyed itself by the offence which its iniquities had 
given to the holiness of God, here compared to the sensitiveness 
of the human eye. Do not wonder at its being called a ruin, 
for Jerusalem totters and Judah falls (or Jerusalem is tottering, 
and Judah falling), because their tongue and their doings 
(words and deeds being put for the whole conduct) are against 
Jehovah (strictly to or towards, but in this connection necessa- 
rily implying opposition and hostility), to resist (i. e. so as to 
resist, implying both the purpose and effect) his holy eyes (and 
thereby to offend them). Jerusalem and Judah, though pecu- 
liarly the Lord's, were nevertheless to fall and be destroyed for 
their iniquities. 

9. As they make no secret of their, depravity, and as sin and 
suffering are inseparably connected, they must bear the blame 
of their own destruction. The expression of their countenances 
testifies against them, and their sin, like Sodom, they hide it not. 
Woe unto their soul, for they have done evil to themselves. The 
context seems to show that the Prophet has reference to gen- 


eral chaiacter and not to a specific sin, while the parallel ex- 
pressions in this verse make it almost certain that the* phrase 
relates to the expression of the countenance. The sense is not 
that their looks betray them, but that they make no effort at 
concealment, as appears from the reference to Sodom. The ex- 
pression of the same idea first in a positive and then in a nega- 
tive form is not uncommon in Scripture, and is a natural if not 
an English idiom. Madame d' Arblay, in her memoirs of Dr. 
Burney, speaks of Omiah, the Tahitian brought home by Capt 
Cook, as u uttering first affirmatively and then negatively all 
the little sentences that he attempted to pronounce." 

10. The righteous are encouraged by the assurance that the 
judgments of God shall not be indiscriminate. Say ye of the 
righteous that it shall be well, for the fruits of their doings they 
shall eat. The object of address seems to be not the prophets 
or ministers of God, but the people at large or men indefi- 
nitely. The concise and elliptical first clause may be variously 
construed. 'Say, it is right (or righteous) that (they should 
eat) good, that they should eat the fruit of their doings.' ' Say, 
it is right, (or God is righteous), for it is good that they should 
eat,' etc. ' Say (what is) right/ i. e. pronounce just judgment 

11. This is the converse of the foregoing proposition, a 
threatening corresponding to the promise. Woe unto the wicked, 
(it shall be) ill (with him), for the thing done by his hand shall 
be done to him. 

12. The Prophet now recurs to the evil of unworthy and 
implacable rulers, and expresses, by an exclamation, wonder and 
concern at the result My people/ their oppressors are childish 
and women rule over them. My people ! thy leaders are seducers, 
and the way of thy paths (the way where thy path lies) they 
swallow up (cause to disappear, destroy). 


... 13. Though human governments might be overthrown, God 
still remained a sovereign and a judge, and is here represented 
as appearing, coming forward, or assuming his position, not only 
as a judge but as an advocate, or rather an accuser, in both 
which characters he acts at once, implying that he who brings 
this charge against his people has at the same time power to 
condemn. Jehovah standeth up to plead, and is standing to 
judge the nations. The first verb properly denotes a reflexive 
act, viz. that of placing or presenting himself. Nations here 
as often elsewhere means the tribes of Israel. See Gen. 49 : 10. 
Deut. 32 : 8. 33 : 3, 19. 1 Kings 22 : 28. Mich. 1 : 2. 

14. This verse describes the parties more distinctly and be- 
gins the accusation. Jehovah will enter into judgment (engage 
in litigation, both as a party and a judge) with the elders of his 
people (the heads of houses, families and tribes) and the chiefs 
thereof (the hereditary chiefs of Israel, here and elsewhere 
treated as responsible representatives of the people). And ye 
(even ye) have consumed the vineyard (of Jehovah, his church or 
chosen people), the spoil of the poor (that which is taken from 
him by violence) is in your houses. Some regard the last clause 
as the language of the Prophet, giving a reason why God would 
enter into judgment with them ; but it is commonly regarded 
as the commencement of the judge's own address, which is con- 
tinued through the following verse. 

15. The Lord's address to the elders of Israel is continued 
in a tone of indignant expostulation. What mean ye (literally 
what is to you, equivalent in English to what have you, i. e. what 
fight, what reason, what motive, what advantage) that ye crush 
my people (a common figure for severe oppression, Job 5 : 4. 
Prov. 22 : 22) and grind the faces of the poor (upon the ground, 
by trampling on their bodies, another strong figure for con- 
temptuous and oppressive violence), saiih the Lord Jehovah of 

3 # 


Hosts (which is added to remind the accused of the sovereign 
authority t omniscience, and omnipotence of Him by whom the 
charge is brought against them). The first verb does not mean 
merely to weaken, bruise, or break, but to break in pieces, to 
break utterly, to crush. By the faces of the poor some under- 
stand their persons or the poor themselves, and by grinding 
them, reducing, attenuating, by exaction and oppression. 
Others refer the phrase to literal injuries of the face by blows 
or wounds. But the simplest and most natural interpretation 
is that which applies it to the act of grinding the face upon the 
ground by trampling on the body, thus giving both the noun 
and verb their proper meaning, and making the parallelism 
more exact. The phrase at the beginning of the verse, what 
mean ye t merely serves to introduce the question. 

16, 17. The Prophet here resumes the thread which had 
been dropped or broken at the close of v. 12, and recurs to the 
undue predominance of female influence, but particularly to the 
prevalent excess of female luxury, not only as sinful in itself 
but as a chief cause of the violence and social disorder previ- 
ously mentioned, and therefore to be punished by disease, wid- 
owhood, and shameful exposure. These two verses, like the 
sixth and seventh, form one continued sentence. And Jehovah 
said (in addition to what goes before, as if beginning a new sec- 
tion of the prophecy), because the daughters of Zion (the women 
of Jerusalem, with special reference to those connected with the 
leading men) are lofty (in their mien and carriage) and walk 
with outstretched neck (literally stretched of neck, so as to seem 
taller), and gazing (ogling, leering, looking wantonly) with their 
eyes } and with a tripping walk they walk, and with their feet they 
make a tinkling (L e^ with the metallic rings or bands worn 
around the ankles), therefore the Lord will make bald the crown 
of the daughters of Zion, and their nakedness Jehovah will uncover 
(L e. he will reduce them to a state the very opposite of 


present pride and finery). They are described as stretching 
out the neck, not by bending forwards, nor by tossing the head 
backwards, but by holding it high, so that the phrase corres- 
ponds to lofty in the clause preceding. The baldness mention- 
ed in the last clause is variously explained as an allusion to the 
shaving of the heads of prisoners or captives, or as a sign of 
mourning, or as the effect of disease, and particularly of the dis- 
ease which bears a name (Lev. 13 : 2) derived from the verb 
here used. Neither of these ideas is expressed, though all may 
be implied, in the terms of the original. 

18. Although the prediction in v. 17 implies the loss of all 
ornaments whatever, we have now a minute specification of the 
things to be taken away. This specification had a double use ; 
it made the judgment threatened more explicit and significant 
to those whom it concerned, while to others it gave some idea 
ol the length to which extravagance in dress was carried. 
There is no need of supposing that all these articles were ever 
worn at once, or that the passage was designed to be descriptive 
of a complete dress. It is rather an enumeration of detached 
particulars which might or might not be combined in any indi- 
vidual case. As in other cases where a variety of detached 
particulars are enumerated simply by their names, it is now 
very difficult to identify some of them. This is the less to be 
regretted, as the main design of the enumeration was to show 
the prevalent extravagance in dress, an effect not wholly depen- 
dent on an exact interpretation of the several items. The inter- 
est of the passage, in its details, is not exegetical but archaeo- 
logical. Nothing more will be here attempted than to give 
what is now most commonly regarded as the true meaning of 
the terms, with a few of the more important variations in the 
doubtful cases. In that day (the time appointed for the judg- 
ments just denounced) the Lord \will take away (literally, cause 
to depart, from the daughters of Zion) the Jyr aver y (in the old 


English sense of finery) of the ankle bands (the noun from which 
the last verb in v. 16 is derived) and the cauls (or caps of net- 
work) and the crescents (or little moons, metallic ornaments of 
that shape). 

- 19. The pendants (literally, drops, i. e. ear-rings) and the 
bracelets (for the arm, or collars for the neck) and the veils (the 
word here used denoting the peculiar oriental veil, composed of 
two pieces hooked together below the eyes, one of which pieces 
is thrown back over the head, while the other hides the face). 

- • 20. The caps (or other ornamental head-dresses) and the ankle 
chains (connecting the ankle bands, so as to regulate the length 
of the step) and the girdles, and the houses (i. e. places or recep- 
tacles) of breath (meaning probably the perfume boxes or smell- 
ing-bottles worn by the oriental women at their girdles), and the 
amulets (the same word used above in v. 3, in the sense of in- 
cantations, but which seems to have also signified the antidote). 
The first word of this verse is now commonly explained to 
mean turbans, but as these are distinctly mentioned afterwards, 
this term may denote an ornamental cap, or perhaps a diadem 
or circlet of gold or silver. The next word is explained to 
mean bracelets by the Septuagint. but by the English Version 
more correctly, though perhaps too vaguely, ornaments of the 
leg. For girdles, smelling bottles and amulets, the English Ver- 
sion has head-bands, tablets (but in the margin, houses of the soul)) 
and ear-rings, perhaps on account of the superstitious use which 
was sometimes made of these (Gen. 35 : 4). 

21. The rings, strictly signet-rings, but here put for finger- 
rings or rings in general, and the nose jewels, a common and very 
ancient ornament in eastern countries, so that the version, jew- 
els of the face, is unnecessary, as well as inconsistent with the 
derivation from a word meaning to perforate* 


22. The holiday-dresses and the mantles and the robes and the 
purses. The first word is almost universally explained to 
mean clothes that are taken off and laid aside, i. e the best 
suit, holiday or gala dresses, although this general expression 
seems misplaced in an enumeration of minute details. The 
common version, changeable suits of apparel, though ambigu- 
ous, seems intended to express the same idea. The next two 
words, according to their etymology, denote wide and flowing 
upper garments. The common version of the last word, crisp- 
ing-pins, supposes it to relate to the dressing of the hair. The 
word is now commonly explained, from the Arabic analogy, to 
signify bags or purses. 

23. The mirrors and the tunics (inner garments made of linen), 
and the turbans (the common oriental head-dress) and the veils. 
The first word is explained by the Septuagint to mean 
thin transparent dresses; but most writers understand it to 
denote the small metallic mirrors carried about by oriental 

24. The threatening is still continued, but with a change of 
form, the things to be taken away being now contrasted with 
those which should succeed them. And it shall be or happen 
that instead of perfume (aromatic odour or the spices which 
afford it) there shall be stench, and instead of a girdle a 
rope, and instead of braided work baldness (or loss of hair 
by disease or shaving, as a sign of captivity or mourning), and 
instead cf a full robe a girdling of sackcloth, burning instead 
of beauty. The inversion of the terms in this last clause, 
and its brevity, add greatly to the strength of the expression. 
The burning mentioned is supposed by some to be that of 
the skin from long exposure; most interpreters understand 
by it a brand, here mentioned either as a stigma of captivity, 
or as a self-inflicted sign of mourning. Sackcloth is mentioned 


as the coarsest kind of cloth, and also as that usually worn by 

25. The Prophet now assigns as a reason for the grief pre- 
dicted in v. 24, a general slaughter of the male population, the 
effect of which is again described in v. 26, and its extent in 
chap. 4:1, which belongs more directly to this chapter than the 
next. In the verse before us, he first addresses Zion or Jeru- 
salem directly, but again, as it were, turns away, and in the 
next verse speaks of her in the third person. Thy men by the 
sword shall fall and thy strength in war. 

26. The effect of this slaughter on the community is here 
described, first by representing the places of chief concourse as 
vocal with distress, and then by personifying the state or na- 
tion as a desolate widow seated on the ground, a sign both of 
mourning and of degradation. And her gates (those of Zion or 
Jerusalem) shall lament and mourn (and), being emptied (or ex- 
hausted) she shall sit upon the ground. The gates are said to 
mourn, by a rhetorical substitution of the place of action for 
the agent, or because a place filled with cries seems itself to 
utter them. She is described not as lying but as sitting on the 
ground. So on one of Vespasian's coins a woman is represented 
in a sitting posture, leaning against a palm-tree, with the legend 
Judaea Capta. 

Ch. 4: 1. The paucity of males in the community, result- 
ing from this general slaughter, is now expressed by a lively 
figure, representing seven women as earnestly soliciting one 
man in marriage, and that on the most disadvantageous terms, 
renouncing the support to which they were by law entitled. 
And in that day (then, after the judgment just predicted), seven 
women (i. e. several, this number being often used indefinitely) 
ekall lay hold of one man (earnestly accost him), saying^ we 


eat our own bread and wear our own apparel, only let thy name be 
called upon us (an idiomatio phrase meaning let ua be called by thy 
name, let us be recognized as thine), take thou away our reproach, 
the ' reproach of widowhood 1 (Isai 54 : 4) or celibacy, or rather 
that of childlessness which they imply, and which was regarded 
with particular aversion by the Jews before the time of Christ. 
The Prophet simply meant to set forth by a lively figure the dis- 
proportion between the sexes introduced by a destructive war. 


Besides the first verse, wnich has been explained already, 
this chapter contains a prophecy of Christ and of the future 
condition of the Church. * The Prophet here reours to the 
theme with which the prophecy opened (ch. 2 : 1-4), but with 
this distinction, that instead of dwelling on the influence ex- 
erted by the church upon the world, he here exhibits its inter- 
nal condition under the reign of the Messiah. He first presents 
to view the person by whose agency the church is to be brought 
into a glorious and happy state, and who is here described as 
a partaker both of the divine and human nature, v. 2. He 
then describes the character of those who are predestined to 
share in the promised exaltation, v. 3. He then shows the 
necessity, implied in these promises, of previous purgation from 
the defilement described in the foregoing chapters, v. 4. When 
this purgation is effected, God will manifest his presence glori- 
ously throughout his church, v. 5. To these promises of purity 
and honour he now adds one of protection and security, with 
which the prophecy concludes, v. 6. 

It is commonly agreed that this prediction has been only 


partially fulfilled, and that its complete fulfilment is to be 
expected, not in the literal Mount Zion or Jerusalem, bat in 
those various assemblies or societies of true believers, which 
now possess in cdmmon the privileges once exclusively enjoyed 
by the Holy City and the chosen race of which it was the centre 
and metropolis. 

2. In that day (after this destruction) shall the Branch (or 
Offspring) of Jehovah be for honour and for glory, and the Fruit 
of the Earth for sublimity and beauty , to the escaped of Israel, 
literally, the escape or deliverance of Israel, the abstract being 
used for the collective concrete, meaning those who should sur- 
vive these judgments. At this point the Prophet passes from 
the tone of threatening to that of promise. Having foretold a 
general destruction, he now intimates that some should escape 
it, and be rendered glorious aiflr happy by the presence and 
favour of the Son of Qod, who is at the same time the Son of 
Man. The usage of the word Branch in application to an in- 
dividual will be clear from the following examples. " Behold 
the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a 
righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper" (Jer. 
23 : 5). " In those days and at that time will I cause the 
beanch of righteousness to grow up unto David, and he 
shall execute judgment" (Jer. 33 : 15). "Behold I will bring 
forth my servant the Branch" (Zech. 3 : 8). " Behold the 
man whose name is the branch" (Zech. 6:12). The Branch 
is here represented as a man, a king, a righteous judge, a 
servant of Qod. Hence it is reasonable to conclude that the 
same person, whom Jeremiah calls the branch (or son) of David, 
is called by Isaiah in the verse before us the branch (or son) of 
Jehovah. The parallel terms correspond exactly to the two 
parts of Paul's description (Rom. 1 : 3, 4), and to the two titles 
applied in the New Testament to Christ's two natures, Son of 
God and Son of Man. 


3. And it shall be, happen, come to pass, that the left in Zion 
and the spared in Jerusalem, singular forms with a collective ap- 
plication, shall be called holy, literally, holy shall be said to him, 
i. e. this name shall be used in addressing him, or rather may 
be used with truth, implying that the persons so called should 
be what they seemed to be, every one written, enrolled, ordained, 
to life in Jerusalem Having foretold the happiness and honour 
which the Son of God should one day confer upon his people, 
the Prophet now explains to whom the promise was intended to 
apply. In the preceding verse they were described by their 
condition as survivors of God's desolating judgments. In this 
they are described by their moral character, and by their eter- 
nal destination to this character and that which follows it ' 

4. The construction is continued from the verse preceding. 
All this shall come to pass, if (provided that, on this condition, 
which idea may be here expressed by when) the Lord shall have 
washed away (the Hebrew word denoting specially the washing 
of the body, and suggesting the idea of the legal ablutions) the 
filth (a very strong term transferred from physical to moral de- 
filement) of the daughters of Zion (the women before mentioned), 
and the blood (literally bloods, i. e. blood-shed or blood-guiltiness) 
of Jerusalem (i. e. of the people in general), by a spirit of judg- 
ment and spirit of burning, i e. by the judgment and burning 
of the Holy Spirit, with a twofold allusion to the purifying 
and destroying energy of fire, or rather to its purifying by 
destroying, purging the whole by the destruction of a part, 
and thereby manifesting the divine justice as an active principle. 
This verse contains a previous condition of the promise in v. 
3, which could not be fulfilled until the church was purged from 
the pollution brought upon it by the sins of those luxurious 
women and of the people generally, a work which could be ef- 
fected only by the convincing and avenging influences of the 
Holy Spirit. The word spirit cannot be regarded as pleonastic 


or simply emphatic without affording license to a like inter* 
pretation in all other cases. It has been variously explained here 
as meaning breath, word, and power or influence. But since this is 
the term used in the New Testament to designate that person 
of the Godhead, whom the Scriptures uniformly represent as 
the executor of the divine purposes, and since this sense is 
perfectly appropriate here, the safest and most satisfacto- 
ry interpretation is that which understands by it a personal 

5. And Jehovah will create (implying the exercise of almighty 
power and the production of a new effect) over the whole extent (lit- 
erally, place or space) of Mount Zion (in its widest and most 
spiritual sense, as appears from what follows), and over her as- 
semblies, a cloud by day and smoke (i. e. a cloud of smoke), and 
the brightness of a flaming fire by night ; for over all the glory 
(previously promised, there shall be) a covering (or shelter). 
The church is not only to be purified by God's judgments, 
but glorified by his manifested presence, and in that state of 
glory kept secure by his protection. The presence of God is 
here denoted by the ancient symbol of a fiery cloud, and is prom- 
ised to the church in its whole extent and to its several as- 
semblies, as distinguished from the one indivisible congregation, 
and its one exclusive place of meeting, under the old economy. 
The two appearances described in this verse are those presented 
by a fire at different times, a smoke by day and a flame by 
night. Some regard this as the statement of a general fact, 
' over every thing glorious there is protection,' i. x. men are ac- 
customed to protect what they value highly ; but the great ma- 
jority of writers understand it as a prophecy or promise. 

6. And there shall be a shelter (properly a booth or covert of 
leaves and branches, to serve) for a shadow by day (as a protec- 
tion) from heat, and for a covert and for a hiding-place from storm 


and from rain. The promise of refuge and protection is repeat- 
ed or continued under the figure of a shelter from heat and 
rain, natural emblems for distress and danger. 


This chapter contains a description of the prevalent iniqui- 
ties of Judah, and of the judgments which, in consequence of 
these, bad been or were to be inflicted on the people. The 
form of the prophecy is peculiar, consisting of a parable and a 
commentary on it. 

The Prophet first delivers his whole message in a parabolic 
form, vs. 1-7. He then explains and amplifies it at great length, 
vs. 8-30. 

The parable sets forth the peculiar privileges, obligations, 
guilt, and doom of Israel, under the figure of a highly favoured 
vineyard which, instead of good fruit, brings forth only wild 
grapes, and is therefore given up to desolation, vs. 1-6. The 
application is expressly made by the Prophet himself, v. 7. 

In the remainder of the chapter, he enumerates the sins 
which were included in the general expressions of v. 7, and de- 
scribes their punishment. In doing this, he first gives a cata- 
logue of sins with their appropriate punishments annexed, vs. 
8-24. He then describes the means used to inflict them, and 
the final issue, vs. 25-30. 

In its general design and subject, this prophecy resembles 
those which go before it ; but it differs remarkably from both 
in holding up to view exclusively the dark side of the picture, 
the guilt and doom of the ungodly Jews, without the cheering 
contrast of purgation and deliverance to be experienced from 
the same events by the true Israel, the Church of God. 


This chapter, like the first, is applicable not to one event ex- 
clusively, but to a sequence of events which was repeated more 
than once, although its terms were never fully realized until 
the closing period of the Jewish history, after the true Messiah 
was rejected, when one ray of hope was quenched after another, 
until all grew dark for ever in the skies of Israel 

1. The parable is given in vs. 1-6, and applied in v. 7. It is 
introduced in such a manner as to secure a favourable hearing 
from those whose conduct it condemns, and in some measure to 
conceal its drift until the application. The Prophet proposes 
to sing a song, i. e. to utter a rhythmical and figurative narra- 
tive, relating to a friend of his, his friend's own song indeed 
about his vineyard. In the last clause he describes the situa- 
tion of the vineyard, its favourable exposure and productive 
soil. I will sing, if you please (or lA me sing, I pray you), cf 
my friend (i. e. concerning him), my friends song of his vineyard 
(i. e. concerning it). My friend had a vineyard in a hill of great 
fertility (literally, in a horn, a son of fatness, according to the 
oriental idiom which applies the terms of human kindred to 
relations of every kind). The common version, now will I sing, 
seems to take now as an adverb of time, whereas it is a particle 
of entreaty, used to soften the expression of a purpose, and to 
give a tone of mildness and courtesy to the address. Sing 
and song are used, as with us, in reference to poetry, without 
implying actual musical performance. The Prophet must be 
understood as speaking of a human friend, until he explains 
himself. Horn is here used, as in various other languages, 
for the sharp peak of a mountain, or, as in Arabic, for a 
detached hill. The preposition does not properly mean 
on but in, implying that the vineyard only occupied a 
part, and that this was not the summit, but the acclivity 
exposed to the sun, which is the best situation for a vine- 


2. Not only was the vineyard favourably situated, but assidu- 
ously tilled, protected from intrusion, and provided with every 
thing that seemed to be needed to secure an abundant vintage. 
And he digged it up, and gathered out the stones thereof, and 
planted it with Sorek, mentioned elsewhere (Jer. 2:21) as the 
choicest kind of vine, which either gave or owed its name to the 
valley of Sorek (Judg. 16:4), and built a tower in the midst of 
ii % partly for protection from men and beasts, and partly for the 
pleasure and convenience of the owner, and also a wine-vat, to 
receive the juice from the wine-press immediately above, he 
hewed in it, i. e. in a rock (or hewed may be simply used for ex- 
cavated in the ground, a common situation in hot countries for 
the locus, reservoir, or wine-vat), and he waited for it, i. e. he 
allowed it time, to make, (produce, bear, bring forth,) grapes, and 
it produced wild grapes. 

3. Having described the advantageous situation, soil, and 
culture of the vineyard, and its failure to produce good fruit, 
he submits the case to the decision of his hearers. And now, 
not merely in a temporal but a logical sense, ' this being the 
case,' oh inhabitant of Jerusalem and man of Judah, the singular 
form adding greatly to the individuality and life of the expres- 
sion, judge 1 pray you, pray decide or act as arbiters, between 
me and my vineyard. The people are here called upon to judge 
between a stranger and his vineyard, simply as such, unaware 
that they are thereby passing judgment on themselves. The 
meaning and design of the appeal are perfectly illustrated by 
that which Christ makes (Matt. 21 : 40) in a parable analogous 
to this and founded on it. There as here the audience are 
called upon to judge in a case which they regard as foreign to 
their own, if not fictitious, and it is only after their decision 
that they are made to see its bearing on themselves. So too in 
Nathan's parable to David (2 Sam 12 : 1 ), it was not till " David's 
anger was greatly kindled against the man," i. e. the stranger of 


whom lie understood the Prophet to be speaking, that " Nathan 
said to David, Thou art the man." A disregard of these 
analogies impairs both the moral force and the poetical unity 
and beauty of the apologue. The same thing may be said of 
the attempt to put a specific figurative sense on each part of 
the parable, the wall, the tower, the hedge, etc., which is not 
more reasonable here than it would be in explaining Esop's 
fables. The parable, as a whole, corresponds to its subject as 
a whole, but all the particulars included in the one are not 
separately intended to denote particulars included in the other. 
A lion may be a striking emblem of a hero, but it does not 
follow that the mane, claws, etc. of the beast must all be sig- 
nificant of something in the man. Nay, they cannot even be 
supposed to be so, without sensibly detracting from the force 
and beauty of the image as a whole. 

4. This verse shows that the parable is not yet complete, and 
that its application would be premature. Having called upon 
the Jews to act as umpires, he now submits a specific question 
for their arbitration. What to do more (i. e. what more is there 
to be done) to my vineyard and I have not (or in the English 
idiom, that I have not) done in it (not only to or for but in it, 
with reference to the place as well as the object of the action)? 
Why did I wait for it to bear grapes and it bore wild grapes? 
Some supply was instead of is in the first clause, what was 
there to do more, i. e. what more was there to be done, or was I 
bound to do? But this, though grammatically unexceptionable, 
does not agree so well with the connection between this verse 
and the next, as a question and answer. Still less exact is the 
English Version, what more could have been done? The question 
whether God had done all that he could do for the Jews, when 
the Scriptures were still incomplete and Christ had not yet 
come, however easy of solution, is a question here irrelevant, 
because it has relation not to something in the text but to 


something supplied by the interpreter, and that not only with- 
out necessity but in violation of the context; for the next 
verse is not an answer to the question what God could have 
done but what he shall or will do. 

5. He now proceeds to answer his own question, in a tone of 
pungent irony, almost amounting to a sarcasm. The reply 
which might naturally have been looked for was a statement of 
some new care, some neglected precaution, some untried mode 
of culture; but instead of this he threatens to destroy the 
vineyard, as the only expedient remaining. The rhetorical 
effect of this sudden turn in the discourse is heightened by the 
very form of the last clause, in which the simple future, as the 
natural expression of a purpose, is exchanged for the infinitive, 
denoting the bare action without specification of person, time, 
or number. And now (since you cannot tell) I will let you 
know if you please (or let me tell you) what I am doing to my 
vineyard (i. e. according to the idiomatic use of the participle, 
what 1 am about to do, suggesting the idea of a proximate futu- 
rity), remove its hedge and it shall become a pasture (literally, a 
consuming, but with special reference to cattle), break down its 
wall, and it shall become a trampling-place (i. e. it shall be over- 
run and trampled down). Remove and break are not impera- 
tives but infinitives, equivalent in meaning to / will remove and 
break, but more concise and rapid in expression. 

6. To the threatening of exposure he now adds that of deso- 
lation arising from neglect of culture, while the last clause con- 
tains a beautiful though almost imperceptible transition from 
the apologue to the reality. By adding to the other threats, 
which any human vine-dresser might have reasonably uttered, 
one which only God could execute, the parable at one stroke is 
brought to a conclusion, and the mind prepared for the ensuing 
application. And I place it (render it) a desolation. B shall 


not be pruned, and it shall not be dressed, and there shall come up 
thorns and briers. And I will lay my commands upon the clouds 
from raining rain upon it, i e. that they rain no rain upon it. 
The addition of the noun rain is emphatic and equivalent to 
any rain at all. The English Version lay waste is perhaps too 
strong for the original expression, which rather signifies the 
letting it run to waste by mere exposure and neglect To com- 
mand from or away from is to deter from any act by a command, 
in other words to forbid or to command not to do the thing in 
question. In this sense only can the preposition from be said 
to have a negative meaning. 

7. The startling menace at the close of the sixth verse would 
naturally prompt the question, Who is this that assumes power 
over clouds and rain, and what is the vineyard which he thus 
denounces ? To this tacit question we have here the answer. 
As if he had said, do not wonder that the owner of the vine- 
yard should thus speak, for the vineyard of Jehovah of Hosts is 
the House of Israel, the church, considered as a whole, and the 
man of Judah is the plant of his pleasures, or his favourite plant. 
And he waited for judgment, practical justice, as in oh. 1 : 17, 
and behold bloodshed, for righteousness and behold a cry, either 
outcry and disturbance, or more specifically the cry of the op- 
pressed, which last is more agreeable to usage, and at the same 
time more poetical and graphic. 

8. Here begins a detailed specification of the sins included 
in the general expressions of v. 7. We have first two woes 
pronounced against as many sins, each followed by a threaten- 
ing of appropriate punishment, and a general threatening which 
applies to both, vs. 8-17. The first sin thus denounced is that 
of ambitious and avaricious grasping after property in opposition 
not merely to the peculiar institutions of the law, but to the 
fundamental principles of morals, connected as it always is with 


ft neglect of charitable duties and a willingness to sacrifice the 
good of others. The verse before us may be understood, how- 
ever, as descriptive gather of the tendency and aim of this am- 
bitious grasping, than of its actual effects. Woe to the joiners of 
house with house, or those making house touch house, field to field 
they bring together, literally, cause them to approach, even to 
a failure (or defect) of place, i. e. until there is no room left, and 
ye, by a sudden apostrophe addressing those of whom he had 
been speaking, are made (or left) to dwell by yourselves in the 
midst of the land, owning all from the centre to the circumfer- 
ence, or simply within its bounds, within it. 

9. The inordinate desire of lands and houses shall be pun- 
ished by the loss of them, vs. 9, 10. And first, he threatens 
that the valuable houses which they coveted, and gained by 
fraud or violence, shall one day be left empty, an event imply- 
ing the death, captivity, or degradation of their owners. In 
my ears Jehovah of Hosts is saying, as if his voice were still ring- 
ing in the Prophet's ears, of a truth (literally, if not, being part 
of an old formula of swearing, ' may it be so and so if etc. ; 
so that the negative form conveys the strongest affirmation, 
surely, certainly) many houses shall become a desolation, great and 
good {houses), for want of an inhabitant. 

10. As the sin related both to lands and houses, so both are 
mentioned in denouncing punishment. The desolation of the 
houses was in fact to arise from the unproductiveness of the 
lands. Kuinous failure of crops and a near approach to abso- 
lute sterility are threatened as a condign punishment of those 
who added field to field and house to house. The meaning of 
this verse depends, not on the absolute value of the measures 
mentioned, but on their proportions. The last clause threatens 
that the seed sown, instead of being multiplied, should be re- 
duced nine tenths; and a similar idea is no doubt azprsMtd 



by the analogous terms of the preceding clause. Fbr te*&it$ 
of vineyard shall make (produce) one bath, a liquid measure 
here put for a very small quantity of wine to he yielded by So 
large a quantity of land, and the seed of a homer, i. e. seed to 
the amount of a homer, or in our idiom, a homer of seed, shall 
produce an ephah, a dry measure equal to the liquid bath, and 
constituting one tenth of a homer, as we learn from Exek. 

11. The second woe is uttered against drunsienness and 
heartless dissipation, with its usual accompaniment of inatten- 
tion to God's providential dealings, and is connected with cap- 
tivity, hunger, thirst, and general mortality, as its appropriate 
punishment, vs. 11-14. The description of the sin is con- 
tained in vs. 11, 12, and first that of drunkenness, considered 
not as an occasional excess, but as a daily business, diligently 
prosecuted with a devotion such as would ensure success in any 
laudable or lawful occupation. Woe to those rising early in the 
morning to pursue strong drink (literally, strong drink they pur- 
sue), delaying in the twilight (until) wine inflames them. The 
idea of continuing till night is rather implied than expressed. 
The allusion is not so much to the disgracefulness of drinking 
in the morning as to their spending day and night in drinking, 
rising early and sitting up late. Strong drink differs from wine 
only by including all intoxicating liquors, and is here used 
simply as a parallel expression. 

12. This verse completes the picture begun in v. 1 1, by add- 
ing riotous mirth to drunkenness. To express this idea, music 
is joined with wine as the source of their social enjoyment ; but 
the last clause shows that it is not mere gaiety, nor even the 
excess of it, that is here intended to be prominently set forth, 
but the folly and wickedness of merriment at certain times 
end under certain circumstances, especially amidst impending 


judgments. The general idea of music is expressed by nam- 
ing several instruments belonging to the three great classes, 
stringed, wind, and pulsatile. The precise form and use of 
each cannot be ascertained, and is of no importance to the 
meaning of the sentence. And the harp and the viol, the tabret 
(tambourine or small drum) and the pipe (or flute), and wine 
(compose) their feasts; and the work of Jehovah they will 
not look at (or regard), and the operation of his hands they have 
not seen, and do not see. The work of Jehovah here meant 
is not that of creation but his dealings with the people in 
the way of judgment Compare ch. 10: 12. 22: 11. 28: 21. 
Hab. 1:5. 3:2. Ps. 64 : 9, and especially Ps. 28 : 5, from which 
the expressions there used seem to be taken. 

13. Here again the sin is directly followed by its condign 
punishment, drunkenness and disregard of providential warn- 
ings, by captivity, hunger, thirst, and general mortality, vs. 13, 
14. But instead' of the language of direct prediction (as in vs. 
9, 10) the Prophet here employs that of description. Therefore 
(for the reasons given in the two preceding verses) my people has 
gone into exile (or captivity) for want of knowledge (a wilful ig- 
norance of God's providential work and operation), and their 
glory (literally his, referring to the singular noun people) are 
men of hunger (L e. famished), and their multitude dry (parched) 
with thirst. 

14. As the effect of the preceding judgments, the Prophet 
now describes a general mortality, under the figure of the grave, 
as a ravenous monster, gaping to devour the thoughtless revel- 
lers. Here, as in v. 13, he seems to be speaking of events 
already past. Therefore (because famine and captivity have 
thus prevailed) the grave has enlarged herself and opened her 
mouth without measure, and down goes her pomp and her noise 
and her crowd and he that rejoices in her. The sense of the term 


grave here corresponds almost exactly to the poetical use of 
grave in English, as denoting one great receptacle, to which 
the grave of individuals may be conceived as inlets. It is thus 
that we speak of a voice from the grave, without referring to 
the burial-place of any individual. The idea of a place of tor- 
ment, which is included in their present meaning, is derived 
from the peculiar use of cftirjg in the book of Revelation, and 
belongs to the Hebrew word only by implication and in certain 

15. To the description of the punishment the Prophet now 
adds that of its design and ultimate effect, to wit, the humilia- 
tion of man and the exaltation of God, vs. 15, 16. The former 
is here foretold in terms almost identical with those of ch. 2 : 9. 
And man is brought low and man is cast down and the eyes of the 
lofty (or haughty) are cast down. " Let a man be ever so high, 
death will bring him low ; ever so mean, death will bring him 
lower." (Matthew Henry.) 

16. The same events which humble man exalt God, not by 
contrast, but by the positive exhibition of his attributes. And 
Jehovah of Hosts is exalted in judgment (in the exercise of jus- 
tice), and the Mighty, the Holy One, is sanctified) shown to be a 
Holy God) in righteousness. In judgment and in righteousness 
are used precisely in the same sense, ch. 1 : 27. 

17. Having paused, as it were, to show the ultimate effect of 
these judgments, he now completes the description of the judg- 
ments themselves, by predicting the conversion of the lands 
possessed by the ungodly Jews, into a vast pasture-ground, 
occupied only by the flocks of wandering shepherds from the 
neighbouring deserts. And lambs shall feed as (in) their pasture, 
and the wastes of the fat ones shall sojourners (temporary occu- 
pants) devour. 


18. The series of woes is now resumed and continued with- 
out any interruption, vs. 18-23. Even the description of the 
punishment, instead of being added directly to that of the sin, 
as in vs. 9 and 13, is postponed until the catalogue of sins is 
closed, and then subjoined in a general form, v. 24. This 
yerse contains the third woe, having reference to presumptuous 
sinners who defy God's judgments. They are here represented 
not as drawn away by sin (James 1 : 14), but as laboriously 
drawing it to them by soliciting temptation, drawing it out by 
obstinate persistency in evil and contempt of divine threatenings. 
Woe to the drawers of iniquity (those drawing, those who draw 
it) with cords of vanity, and sin (a parallel expression to iniquity) 
as (or as with) a cart-rope, i. e. a strong rope, implying difficulty 
and exertion. Vanity may be taken in the sense of falsehood 
or sophistical reasoning by which men persuade themselves to 
sin. The true interpretation of the verse supposes the act 
described to be that of laboriously drawing sin to one's self 
perhaps with the accessory idea of drawing it out by persever- 

19. The degree of their presumption and depravity is now 
evinced by a citation of their language with respect to God's 
threatened judgments, an ironical expression of impatience to 
behold them, and an implied refusal to believe without experi- 
ence. The sentence is continued from the verse preceding, and 
further describes the sinners there denounced, as the ones say- 
ing (those who say), let him speed, let him hasten his work (his 
providential work, as in v. 12), that we may see, and let the counsel 
(providential plan or purpose) of the Holy One of Israel (which, 
in the mouth of these blasphemers, seems to be a taunting 
irony) draw nigh and come, and we will know (i. e. according to 
the Hebrew idiom and the parallel expression) that we may 
know what it is, or that it is a real purpose, and that he is able 


to accomplish it. (Compare Jer. 17: 15. Amos 5: 18. 6: 18. 
30 : 10, 1 1. 28 : 15. 2 Peter 3 : 4.) 

20. The fourth woe is against those who subvert moral dis- 
tinctions and confound good and evil, an idea expressed first in 
literal terms and then by two obvious and intelligible figures. 
Woe unto the (persons) saying (those who say) to evil good and 
to good evil (who address them by these titles or call them so), 
pitting darkness f oi' light and light for darkness, putting bitter for 
sweet and sweet for bitter. These are here combined, not merely 
as natural opposites, but also as common figures for truth and 
falsehood, right and wrong. See ch. 2:5. Prov. 2:13. Eo. 
2: 13. James 3: 11. 

21. Here, as in the foregoing verse, one sin follows another 
without any intervening description of punishment. This 
arrangement may imply a very intimate connection between the 
sins thus brought into juxtaposition. As presumptuous sin, 
such as vs. 18, 19 describe, implies a perversion of the moral 
sense, such as v. 20 describes, so the latter may be said to pre- 
suppose an undue reliance upon human reason, which is else- 
where contrasted with the fear of God (Prov. 3 : 7), and is 
indeed incompatible with it. Woe unto the wise in their eyes 
(i. e. their own eyes, which cannot be otherwise expressed in 
Hebrew) and before their own faces (in their own sight or es- 
timation) prudent) intelligent, a synonyme of wise. The sin 
reproved^ as Calvin well observes, is not mere frivolous self- 
conceit, but that delusive estimate of human wisdom which 
may coexist with modesty of manners and a high degree of 
real intellectual merit, but which must be abjured, not only 
on account of its effects, but also as involving the worst form 
of pride. 

22. The sixth woe, like the second, is directed against drunk- 

Cg^PTER V. 7* 

ards, but with special reference to drunken judges, vs. 22, 23. 
The tone of this verse is sarcastic, from its using terms which 
commonly express not only strength but courage and heroic 
spirit, in application to exploits of drunkenness. There may 
indeed be a particular allusion to a species of fool-hardiness and 
brutal ambition not uncommon in our own times, leading men 
to show the vigour of their frames by mad excess, and to seek 
eminence in this way no less eagerly than superior spirits seek 
true glory. Of such it may indeed be said, their god is their 
belly and they glory in their shame. Woe to the mighty men or 
heroes (who are heroes only) to drink wine, and men of strength 
to mingle strong drink, i. e. according to the usual interpretation, 
to mix wine with spices, thereby making it more stimulating 
and editing, a practice spoken of by Pliny and other ancient 
writers. Some understand the Prophet as referring to the 
mixture of wine with water. In either case the mixing is here 
mentioned only as a customary act in the offering or drinking 
of liquors, just as making tea might be mentioned as a common 
act of modern hospitality, whatever part of the preparatory 
process the. phrase may properly denote. 

23. The absence of the interjection shows that this is a con- 
tinuation of the woe begun in the preceding verse, and thus 
explains the Prophet's recurrence to a sin which he had de- 
nounced already (vs. 11, 12) as productive of general inconsid- 
eration, but which he now describes as leading to injustice, .and 
therefore as a vice peculiarly disgraceful in a magistrate. The, 
effect here ascribed to drunkenness is not merely that of inca- - 
pacitating judges for the discharge of their official functions,, 
but that of tempting them to make a trade of justice L with a. 
view to the indulgence of this appetite. Justifying (i. e. ac- 
quitting, clearing, a forensic term) the guilty (not simply the 
wicked in a general sense, but the wrong-doer in a judicial^, 
sense) for the sake (literally as the result) of a bribe, and the, 


righteousness of the righteous (i. e. the right of the innocent or 
injured party, or his character as such) they will take from him 
(L e. they do and will do so still). 

24. To the series of sins enumerated in the six preceding 
verses there is now added a general description of their punish- 
ment In the first clause, the Prophet represents the divine 
visitation, with its sudden, rapid, irresistible effect, by the fa- 
miliar figure of chaff and dry grass sinking in the flames. In 
the second clause he passes from simile to metaphor, and speaks 
of the people as a tree whose root is rotten and its growth 
above ground pulverized. In the third, he drops both figures, 


and in literal expressions summarily states the cause of their 
destruction. Therefore (because of the abounding of these 1 sins) 
as a tongue cf fire (i. e. a flame, so called from its shape and 
motion, Acts 2:3. 1 Kings 18: 38) devours chaff (or stubble), 
and as ignited grass falls away, their roots shall be as rottenness, 
and their blossom as fine dust shall go up (i. e. be taken up and 
scattered by the wind). For they have rejected the law of Jehovah 
of Hosts, and the word (the revealed will) of the Holy One of Is- 
rael they have treated with contempt. 

25. Having declared in the foregoing verse what should be, 
he recalls to mind what has already been. As if he had said, 
God will visit you for these things ; nay, he has done so already, 
but without reclaiming you or satisfying his own justice, for 
which purpose further strokes are still required. The previous 
inflictions here referred to are described as a stroke from Jeho- 
vah's outstretched hand, so violent as to shake the mountains, 
and so destructive as to fill the streets with corpses. Therefore 
(referring to the last clause of v. 24) the anger of Jehovah has 
burned against his people (literally in them, i. e. in the very midst 
of them as a consuming fire), and he stretched forth his hand 
against them (literally him, referring to the singular noun people)- 


and smote them, and the mountains trembled, and their carcass (put 
collectively for corpses) was like sweeping (refuse, filth) in the 
midst of the streets. In all this (i. e. even after all this, or not- 
withstanding all this) his anger has not turned back (abandoned 
its object, or regarded it as already gained), and still his hand is 
stretched out (to inflict new judgments). It is not necessary to 
suppose, although it is most probable, that what is here de- 
scribed had actually taken place before the Prophet wrote. In 
this, as in some other cases, he may be supposed to take his 
stand between a nearer and a more remote futurity, the former 
being then of course described as past. — The trembling of 
the mountains is referred by some to the earthquake men- 
tioned Amos 1:1. Zech. 14:5. It is most probable, however, 
that these strong expressions were intended simply to convey 
the idea of violent commotion and a general mortality. There 
is no need of referring what is said exclusively to evils suf- 
fered in the days of Joash and Amaziah or in those of Ahaz, 
since the Prophet evidently means to say that all preceding 
judgments had been insufficient and that more were still re- 

26. The former stroke having been insufficient, a more effec- 
tual one is now impending, in predicting which the Prophet 
does not confine himself to figurative language, but presents the 
approaching judgment in its proper form, as the invasion and 
ultimate subjection of the country by a formidable enemy, vs. 
26-30. In this verse he describes the approach of these inva- 
ders as invited by Jehovah, to express which idea he employs 
two figures not uncommon in prophecy, that of a signal-pole or 
flag, and that of a hiss or whistle, in obedience to which the 
last clause represents the enemy as rapidly advancing. And he 
raises a signal to the nations from afar, and hisses (or whistles) 
for him from the ends of the earth ; and behold in haste, swift, he 
shall come. The essential idea is that the previous lighter judg- 



ments should be followed by another more severe and 
cious, by invasion and subjection. The terms are moat emphat- 
ically applicable to the Romans. — The hissing or whistling, 
probably alludes to the ancient mode of swarming bees, described 
at length by Cyril. In the last clause a substantive meaning 
haste, and an adjective meaning light, are both used adverbially 
in the sense of swiftly. 


27. The enemy whose approach was just foretold, ia now 
described as not only prompt and rapid, but complete in his 
equipments, firm and vigorous, ever wakeful, impeded neither 
by the accidents of the way nor by defective preparation. Tk&e 
is no one faint (or exhausted) and there i$ no one stumbling (or 
faltering) among them (literally in him). He (the enemy, con- 
sidered as an individual) sleeps not, and he slumbers not, and ike 
girdle of his loins is not opened (or loosed), and the latchet (string 
or band) of his shoes (or sandals) is not broken. It is most prob- 
able that this last clause relates to accidental interruptions of 
the march,. 

. . .. ■/ 

28. The description is continued, but with special reference 
to their weapons and their means of conveyance; For the 
former, bows and arrows are here put ; and for the latter, 
horses and chariots (see ch. 2 : 7). Whose arrows are sharpened 
and all his bows bent (literally trod upon) ; the hoofs of Ms horses 
like flint (or adamant) are reckoned, and his wheels like a whirl- 
windy in rapidity and violence of motion. From what is said 
of the bows immediately afterwards, the prominent idea would 
seem to be not that the arrows were sharp, but that they were 
already sharpened, implying present readiness for use. — The 
bows being trod upon has reference to the ancient mode of 
stringing, or rather of shooting, the bow being large and made 
of metal or hard wood. Arrian says expressly, in describing 
the* use of the bow by the Indian infantry, ." placing it on the 


ground, and stepping on it with the left foot, so they shoot, 
drawing the string back to a great distance." 

29. By a sudden transition, the enemy are here represented 
as lions, roaring, growling, seizing their prey, and carrying it 
off without resistance ; a lively picture, especially to an oriental 
reader, of the boldness, fierceness, quickness, and success of the 
attack here threatened. He has a roar like the lioness, and A* 
shall roar like the young lions, and shall growl, and seize thepre^ 
and secure it, none delivering (i. e. and none can rescue it). ^ 

30. The roaring of the lion suggests the roaring of the sea, 
and thus a beautiful transition is effected from the one figure to 
the other, in describing the catastrophe of all these judgments. 
Israel is threatened by a raging sea, and looking landward TWes 
it growing dark there, until, after a brief fluctuation, the dark- 
ness becomes total. And he (the enemy) shall roar against him 
(Israel) in that day like the roaring of a sea. And he shall look 
to the land, and behold darkness ! Anguish and light I ft is 
dark in the clouds thereof (i. e. of the land, the skies above it).— 
The Prophet speaks of the vast multitude that was coming up, 
as a sea. On that side there was no safety. It was natural to 
speak of the other direction as the land or shore, and to say 
that the people would look there for safety. But, says he, 
there would be no safety there ; all would be darkness." 


This chapter contains a vision and a prophecy of awful 
import. At an early period of his ministry, the Prophet sees 
the Jiord epthroned in the temple and adored by the Seraphim, 


at whose voice the house is shaken, and the Prophet, smitten 
with a sense of his own corruption and unworthiness to speak 
for God or praise him, is relieved by the application of fire 
from the altar to his lips, and an assurance of forgiveness, after 
which, in answer to the voice of God inquiring for a messenger, 
he offers himself and is accepted, but with an assurance that his 
labours will tend only to aggravate the guilt and condemnation 
of the people, who are threatened with judicial blindness, and, 
as its necessary consequence, removal from the desolated coun- 
try ; and the prophecy closes with a promise and a threatening 
both in one, to wit, that the remnant which survives the 
threatened judgments shall experience a repetition of the stroke, 
but that a remnant after all shall continue to exist and to 
experience God's mercy. 

The chapter naturally falls into two parts, the vision, vs. 1-8, 
and the message or prediction, vs. 9-13. The precise relation 
between these two parts has been a subject of dispute. The 
question is, whether the vision is an introduction to the message, 
or the message an appendage to the vision. Those who take 
the former view suppose that in order to prepare the Prophet 
for a discouraging and painful revelation, he was favoured with 
a new view of the divine majesty and of his own unworthiness, 
relieved by an assurance of forgiveness, and encouraged by a 
special designation to the self-denying work which was before 
him. Those who assume the other ground proceed upon the 
supposition, that the chapter contains an account of the Prophet's 
original induction into office, and that the message at the close 
was added to prepare him for its disappointments, or perhaps 
to try his faith. 

But the chapter contains nothing which would not have been 
appropriate at any period of that ministry, and some of its 
expressions seem to favour, if they do not require, the hypothe- 
sis of previous experience in the office. The idea of so solemn 
an inauguration is affecting and impressive, but seems hardly 


sufficient to outweigh the presumption arising from the order 
of the prophecies in favour of the other supposition, which 
requires no facts to be assumed without authority, and although 
less striking, is at least as safe. 

1. In the year that king Uzziah died (B. C. 758), I saw the 
Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up, and his skirts (the 
train of his royal robe) filling the palace, or, taking the last word 
in its more specific sense, the temple, so called as being the 
palace of the great King. " No man hath seen God at any 
time" (John 1:18), and God himself hath said, u There shall 
no man see me and live" (Ex. 33 : 20). Yet we read not only 
that " the pure in heart shall see God" (Matt. 5 : 8), but that 
Jaoob said, " I have seen God face to face" (Gen. 32 : 30). It 
is therefore plain that the phrase to " see God" is employed in 
different senses, and that although his essence is and must be 
invisible, he may be seen in the manifestation of his glory or in 
human form. It has been a general opinion in all ages of the 
church, that in every such manifestation it was God the Son 
who thus revealed himself. In John 12: 41, it is said to have 
been Christ's glory that Isaiah saw and spoke of, while Paul 
cites vs. 9 and 10 (Acts 28: 25, 26) as the language of the 
Holy Ghost. It seems needless to inquire whether the Prophet 
saw this sight with his bodily eyes, or in a dream, or in an 
ecstasy, since the effect upon his own mind must have been the 
same in either case. The scene of the vision is evidently taken 
from the temple at Jerusalem, but not confined to its exact 
dimensions and arrangements. It has been disputed whether 
what is here recorded took place before or after the death of 
Uzziah. Those who regard this as the first of Isaiah's pro- 
phecies are forced to assume that it belongs to the reign of 
Uzziah. It is also urged in favour of this opinion, that the 
time after his death would have been described as the first year 
of Jotham. The design, however, may have been to fix, not the 


reign in which he saw the vision, bat the nearest remarkable 
event. Besides, the first year of Jotham would have bean 
ambiguous, because his reign is reckoned from two different 
epochs, the natural death of his father, and his civil death, when 
smitten with the leprosy, after which he* resided in a separate 
house, and the government was administered by Jotham as 
prince-regent, who was therefore virtually king before he was 
such formally, and is accordingly described in the very same 
context as having reigned sixteen and twenty years (2 Kings 
15 : 30, 33). 

2. He sees the Lord not only enthroned but attended by Ids 
ministers. Seraphim, burning spirits, standing above it, the 
throne, or above him that sat upon it. Six wings, six wings, to 
one,\. e. to each. With two he covers his face, as a sign of 
reverence towards God, and with two he covers his feet, for the 
same purpose, or to conceal himself from mortal view, and with 
two he flies, to execute God's will. The Hebrew word seraphim 
means angels of fire, the name being descriptive either of their 
essence, or of their ardent love, or of God's wrath which they exe- 
cute. The word occurs elsewhere only as the name of the fiery 
serpents of the wilderness (Num. 21 : 6,8 : Deut. 8 : 15), described 
by Isaiah ( 1 4 : 29. 30:6) as flying serpents. The transfer of 
the name to beings so dissimilar rests on their possession of 
two common attributes. Both are described as winged and 
both as burning. — Standing does not imply necessarily that they 
rested on the earth or any other solid surface, but that they 
were stationary, even in the air. This will remove all objection 
to the version above him, which may also be explained as de- 
scribing the relative position of persons in a standing -and sitting 
posture. There is no need therefore of the rendering above it, 
which is given in our Bible. The covering of the feet may, 
according to oriental usage, be regarded as a reverential act 
equivalent in import to the hiding of the face. 


>, 3. He now describes the seraphim as praising God in aa 
alternate or responsive doxology. And this cried to this, I e. 
one to another, and said, Holy, Holy, Holy (is) Jehovah of Hosts, 
the fulness of the whole earth, that which fills the whole earth, is 
.his glory / — It was commonly agreed among the Fathers, that 
only two seraphim are mentioned here. It cannot be proved, 
however, from the words this to this, which are elsewhere used in 
reference to a greater number. (See Ex. 14 : 20.) The allu- 
sion to the trinity in this is the more probable because different 
parts of the chapter are referred in the New Testament to the 
three persons of the Godhead. Holy is here understood by 
most interpreters as simply denoting moral purity, which is 
certainly the prominent idea. Most probably, however, it 
denotes the whole divine perfection, that which separates or 
distinguishes between God and his creatures. "lam God and 
not man, the Holy One in the midst of thee." Hos. 11:9. 

4. Then stirred, or shook, the bases of the thresholds at the voice 
that cried, ox at the voice of the one crying, and the house is filled 
with smoke. The effect of this doxology, and of the whole 
supernatural appearance, is described. The door may be 
particularly spoken of, because the Prophet was looking through 
it from the court without into the interior. The participle 
crying may agree with voice directly or with seraph understood. 
By smoke some understand a cloud or vapour showing the 
presence of Jehovah. Most interpreters, however, understand 
it in its proper sense of smoke, as the natural attendant of the 
fire which, biased about the throne of God, or of that which 
burned upon the altar, as in Lev. 16 : 13 the mercy-seat is said 
to be covered with a "cloud of incense." In either case it was 
intended to produce a solemn awe in the beholder. 

5. And I said, when I saw. and heard these tilings, then I 
said, Woe is me, woe to me, or alas for me, a phrase expressing 


lamentation and alarm, for I am undone, or destroyed, for a man 
impure of lips, as to the lips, am I, and in the midst of a people 
impure of lips, of impure lips, I am dwelling, and am therefore 
undone, for the King, Jehovah of Hosts, my tyes have seen. The 
allusion is not merely to the ancient and prevalent belief that 
no one could see God and live (Gen. 32: 30. Ex. 4: 10, 11. 
33:20. Judg. 6:22-24. 13:22), but to the aggravation of 
the danger arising from the moral contrast between God 
and the beholder. The Prophet describes himself as filled 
with awe, not only by the presence of Jehovah, but also by 
a deep impression of his own sinfulness, especially considered 
as unfitting him to praise God, or to be his messenger, and 
therefore represented as residing in the organs of speech. 
The lips are mentioned as the seat of his depravity, because its 
particular effect, then present to his mind, was incapacity to 
speak for God or in his praise. That it does not refer to 
official unfaithfulness in his prophetic office, is apparent from 
the application of the same words to the people. The preterite 
form of the verb implies that the deed was already done and the 
effect already certain. 

6. And there flew (or then flew) to me one of the seraphim, and 
in his hand a live coal (or a hot stone) ; with tongs he took (it) from 
off (or from upon) the altar. All that is necessary to the un- 
derstanding of the vision is, that the scene presented was a 
temple and included an altar. The precise position of the altar 
or of the Prophet is not only unimportant, but forms no part of 
the picture as here set before us. He now proceeds to describe 
the way in which he was relieved from this distress by a sym- 
bolical assurance of forgiveness. The word translated tongs 
is elsewhere used to signify the snuffers of the golden candle- 
stick, and tongs are not named among the furniture of the 
altar ; but such an implement seems to be indispensable, and 


the Hebrew word may be applied to any thing in the nature of 
a forceps. 

7. And he caused it to touch (i. e. laid it on) my mouth, and 
said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thy iniquity is gone, and 
thy sin shall be atoned for (or forgiven). The mention of the 
altar and the assurance of forgiveness, or rather of atonement, 
makes it natural to take the application of fire as a symbol of 
expiation by sacrifice. The fire is applied to the lips for a two- 
fold reason : first, to show that the particular impediment of 
which the Prophet had complained was done away ; and secondly, 
to show that the gift of inspiration is included, though it does 
not constitute the sole or chief meaning of the symbol. The 
gift of prophecy could scarcely be described as having taken 
away sin, although it might naturally accompany the work of 
expiation. The preterite and future forms are here combined, 
perhaps to intimate, first, that the pardon Was already granted, 
and then that it should still continue. This, at least, seems 
better than arbitrarily to confound the two as presents. 

8. And 1 heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I 
send, and who will go for us ? And 1 said, Here am 1 (literally, 
behold me, or, lo I am), send me. The form of expression in the 
first clause may imply that the speaker was now invisible, per- 
haps concealed by the smoke which filled the house. The 
assurance of forgiveness produces its usual effect of readiness 
to do God's will. A beautiful commentary upon this effect of 
pardoned sin is afforded in David's penitential prayer, Psalm 

9. The Prophet now receives his commission, together with a 
solemn declaration that his labours will be fruitless. This pre- 
diction is clothed in the form of an exhortation or command 
addressed to the people themselves, for the purpose of bringing 


it more palpably befof e them, and of aggravating their insanity 
and wickedness in ruining themselves after such a warnings 
And he said, Go and say to this people. Hear indeed, or hear on, 
but understand not, and see indeed, or continue to see, but know 
not. Not only is their insensibility described in the strongest 
terms, implying extreme folly as well as extreme guilt, but, as 
if to provoke them to an opposite course, they are exhorted, 
with a sort of solemn irony, to do the very thing which would, 
inevitably ruin them, but with an explicit intimation of that, 
issue in the verse ensuing This form of speech is by no means : 
foreign from the dialect of common life It is as if one man 
should say to another in whose good resolutions and engage- 
ments he had no faith, ' Go now and do the very opposite of all 
that you have said.' A similar expression . is employed by 
Christ himself when he says to the Jews (Matt. 23 : 32), Fill 
ye up then the measure of your fathers. The Septuagint version, 
renders the imperatives as futures, and this version is twice 
quoted in the New Testament (Matt. 13:14. Acts 28 : 26), as 
giving correctly the essential meaning of the sentence as a 
prophecy, though stripped of its peculiar form as an ironical 
command. The idea of hearing and seeing without perceiving 
may have been proverbial among the Jews, as it was among the 

10. As the foregoing verse contains a prediction of the 
people's insensibility, but under the form of a command or ex- 
hortation to themselves, so this predicts the same event, as the 
result of Isaiah's labours, under the form of a command to him. 
Make fat, gross, callous, the heart of this people, i. e. their affec- 
tions or their minds in general, and its ears make heavy, dull or 
hard of hearing, and its eyes smear, close or blind, lest it see with 
its eygs, and with its ears hear, and its heart understand, perceive 
or feel, and it turn, i. e. repent and be converted, and be 
healed, or literally, and one heal it, the indefinite construction 


being equivalent in meaning to a passive. The thing predicted 
is judicial blindness, as the natural result and righteous retri- 
bution of the national depravity. This end would be promoted 
by the very preaching of the truth, and therefore a command 
to preach was in effect a command to blind and harden them. 
The act required of the Prophet is here joined with its ultimate 
effect, while the intervening circumstances, namely, the people's 
sin and the withholding of God's grace, are passed by in silence. 
But although not expressed, they are implied in this com- 
mand. The essential idea is their insensibility, considered as 
the fruit of their own depravity, as the execution of God's 
righteous judgment, and as the only visible result of Isaiah's 
labours. In giving Isaiah his commission, it was natural to 
make the last of these ideas prominent, and hence the form of 
exhortation or command in which the prophecy is here presented. 
Make them insensible, not by an immediate act of power, nor 
by any direct influence whatever, but by doing your duty, which 
their wickedness and God's righteous judgments will allow to 
have bo other effect. In other cases, where his personal agency 
no longer needed to be set forth or alluded to, the verse is 
quoted, not as a command, but as a description of the people, or 
as a declaration of God's agency in making them insensible. 
Thus in Matt 13 : 15, and in Acts 28 : 26, the Septuagint ver- 
sion is retained, in which the people's own guilt is the prominent 
idea : ( for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are 
dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest' etc. In 
John 12 : 40, on the other hand, the sentence takes a new form, in 
order to bring out distinctly the idea of judicial blindness : ' he 
hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest,' etc. 
Both these ideas are in fact included in the meaning of the 
passage, though its form is different, in order to suit the occa- 
sion upon which it was originally uttered. 

. 11, And I saia\Haw long, Lord? And he said, Until thai 


cities are desolate for want of an inhabitant, and houses for want 
of men, and the land shall be desolated, a waste, or utterly deso- 
late. The spiritual death of the people should be followed by 
external desolation. The common explanation is no doubt the 
true one, that the Prophet asks how long the blindness of the 
people shall continue, and is told until it ruins them and drives 
them from their country. As the foregoing description is re- 
peatedly applied in the New Testament to the Jews who were 
contemporary with our Saviour, the threatening must be equally 
extensive, and equivalent to saying that the land should be 
completely wasted, not at one time but repeatedly. 

12. This verse continues the answer to the Prophet's ques- 
tion in the verse preceding. And (until) Jehovah shall have 
put far off (removed to a distance) the men (or people of the 
country) and great (much or abundant) shall be that which is 
left (of unoccupied forsaken ground) in the midst of the land. 
This is little more than a repetition, in other words, of the de- 
claration in the verse preceding. The terms of this verse may 
be applied to all the successive desolations of the country, not 
excepting that most extreme and remarkable of all which exists 
at the present moment. 

13. The chapter closes with a repetition and extension of the 
threatening, but in such a form as to involve a promise of the 
highest import. While it is threatened that the stroke shall be 
repeated on the remnant that survives its first infliction, it is 
promised that there shall be such a remnant after every repeti- 
tion to the last. And yet (even after the entire desolation 
which had first been mentioned) in it (the desolated land) 
(there shall remain) a tenth or tithe (here put indefinitely for a 
small proportion) and (even this tenth) shall return and be for 
a consuming (i. e. shall again be consumed, but still not ut- 
terly, for) like the terebinth and like the oak (the two most 


common forest-trees of Palestine) which in falling (in their 
fallen state, when felled) have substance (or vitality) in them (so) 
a holy seed (shall be or is) the substance (vital principle) of it 
(the tenth or remnant which appeared to be destroyed). How- 
ever frequently the people may seem to be destroyed, there 
shall still be a surviving remnant, and however frequently 
that very remnant may appear to perish, there shall still be a 
remnant of the remnant left, and this indestructible residuum 
shall be the holy seed, the true church (Rom. 1 1 : 5). This 
prediction was fulfilled, not once for all, but again and again ; 
not only in the vine-dressers and husbandmen left by Nebuchad- 
nezzar and afterwards destroyed in Egypt ; not only in the 
remnant that survived the destruction of the city by the Ro- 
mans, and increased until again destroyed by Adrian ; but in 
the present existence of the Jews as a peculiar people, notwith- 
standing the temptations to amalgamate with others, notwith- 
standing persecutions and apparent extirpations ; a fact which 
can only be explained by the prediction that " all Israel shall 
be saved" (Rom. 1 1 : 26). As in many former instances, 
throughout the history of the chosen people, under both dis- 
pensations, " even so, at this present time also, there is a rem- 
nant according to the election of grace." 


Here begins a series of connected prophecies (ch. vn-xii) 
belonging to the reign of Ahaz, and relating in general to the 
same great subjects, the deliverance of Judah from Syria and 
Israel, its subsequent subjection to Assyria and other foreign 
powers, the final destruction of its enemies, the advent of Mes- 
siah, and the nature of his kingdom. This series admits of 


different divisions, but it is commonly agreed that one distifiet 
portion is contained in the seventh chapter. 

The chapter begins with a brief historical statement of the 
invasion of Judah by Rezin and Pekah, and of the fear that 
it excited, to relieve which Isaiah is commissioned to meet 
Ahaz in a public place, and to assure him that there is nothing 
more to fear from the invading powers, that their evil design 
cannot be accomplished, that one of them is soon to perish, and 
that in the mean time both are to remain without enlargement, 

vs. 1-9. ■■■'■: 

Seeing the king to be incredulous, the Prophet invites hint to 
assure himself by choosing any sign or pledge of the events 
which he refuses to do, under the pretext of confidence in Obo^ 
but is charged with unbelief by the Prophet, who nevertheless 
renews the promise of deliverance in a symbolical form, and in 
connection with a prophecy of the miraculous conception and 
nativity of Christ, both as a pledge of the event, and' as a 
measure of the time in which it is to take place, vs. 10-16. 

To this assurance of immediate deliverance, he adds a 
threatening of ulterior evils, to arise from the Assyrian protec- 
tion which the king preferred to that of God, to wit, the loss 
of independence, the successive domination of foreign powers, 
the harassing and predatory occupation of the land by strangers, 
the removal of its people, the neglect of tillage, and the trans- 
formation of its choicest vineyards, fields, and gardens, into 
wastes or pastures, vs. 17-25. # 

1. Rezin, the king of Damascene Syria or Aram, from whom 
Uriah had taken Elath, a port on the Red Sea, and restored it 
to Judah (2 Kings 14 : 22), appears to have formed Hn alliance 
with Pekah, the murderer and successor of Pekahiah king of 
Israel (2 Kings 15 : 25), during the reign of Jotham (ib. v. 37), 
but to have deforred the actual invasion of Judah until that 
king's death and the accession of his feeble son, in the first year 


gf whose reign it probably took place, with most encouraging 
success,-** the army of Ahaz was entirely destroyed and two hun- 
dred thousand persons taken captive, who were afterwards sent 
.back at the instance of the Prophet Oded (2 Chron. 28 : 5-15). 
But notwithstanding this success, they were unable to effect their 
main design, the conquest of Jerusalem, whether repelled by 
the natural strength and artificial defences of the place itself, 
or interrupted in the siege by the actual or dreaded inva- 
sion of their own dominions by the king of Assyria (2. Kings 
16.: 7-9). It seems to beat a point of time between their first 
successes and their final retreat, that the Prophet's narrative 
begins. And %t was (happened, came to pass) in the days of 
Ahaz, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah (that), Rezin 
king of Aram (or Syria) and Pekah, son of Remtiliah, king of 
Israel^ came up to (or against) Jerusalem, to war against it ; 
and he was not able to war against it (i. e. with success). The 
invaders are said to have come up to Jerusalem, not merely as a 
military phra&, but with allusion, more or less distinct, to all 
the senses in which the holy city was above all others. 

2. And it was told the house of David (the court, the royal 
family, of Judah) saying, Syria resteth (or is resting) upon 
JSphraim ; and his heart (i. e. the king's, as the chief and 
representative of the house of David) and the heart of his people 
shook, like the shaking of the trees of a wood before a wind. This 
is commonly applied to the effect produced by the first news of 
the coalition between Eezin and Pekah or the junction of their 
forces. It is equally natural, and more consistent with the 
history, to understand the words as having reference to a later 
date, i. e. either the time of the advance upon Jerusalem, or that 
of the retreat of the invaders, laden with the spoil of Judah, and 
with two hundred thousand captives. In the one case, Syria, 
L e. the Syrian army, may be said to rest upon (the army of) 
Ephraim, in the modern military sense, with reference to their 


relative position on the field of battle ; in the other, Syria may 
be described as literally resting or reposing in the territory of 
Ephraim, on its homeward march, and as thereby filling Ahai 
with the apprehension of a fresh attack. Although neither of 
these explanations may seem altogether natural, they are really 
as much so as any of the others which have been proposed, and 
in a case where we have at best a choice of difficulties, these 
may claim the preference as tending to harmonize the prophecy 
with history as given both in Kings and Chronicles. We read 
in 2 Kings 16 : 7-9, that Ahaz applied to Tiglathpileser, king 
of Assyria, to help him against Syria and Israel, which he did. 
At what precise period of the war this alliance was formed, it is 
not easy to determine ; but there seems to be no doubt that 
Ahaz, at the time here mentioned, was relying upon some 
human aid in preference to God. 

3. From this alarm Isaiah is sent to free the king. And 
Jehovah said to Isaiah son of Amoz, Go out to meft Ahaz, thou and 
Shearjashub thy son, to the end of the conduit of the upper pool, to 
the highway of the fuller's field. The mention of these now ob- 
scure localities, although it detracts nothing from the general 
clearness of the passage, is an incidental proof of authenticity, 
which no later writer would or could have forged. The upper 
pool, which has been placed by different writers upon almost 
every side of Jerusalem, is identified by Robinson and Smith 
with a large tank at the head of the Valley of Hinnom, about 
seven hundred yards west-north-west from the Jaffa gate. It 
is full in the rainy season, and its waters are then conducted by 
a small rude aqueduct to the vicinity of the gate just mentioned, 
and so to the Pool of Hezekiah within the walls. This aque- 
duct is probably the conduit mentioned in the text, and the end 
of this conduit the point where it enters the city, as appears 
from the fact, that when Rabshakeh afterwards conferred with 
the ministers of Hezekiah at this same spot, he was heard by 


the people on the city wall (ch. 36:2, 12). From the same 
passage it may be inferred that this was a frequented spot, 
which some suppose to be the reason that Isaiah was directed 
to it, while others understand the direction as implying that 
Ahaz was about to fortify the city, or rather to cut off a supply 
of water from the invaders, as Hezekiah afterwards did when 
besieged by Sennacherib (2 Chr. 32 : 4) ; an example often 
followed afterwards, particularly in the sieges of Jerusalem by 
Pompey^ Titus,, and Godfrey of Bouillon. The Prophet is 
therefore commanded to go out, not merely from his house, but 
from the city, to meet Ahaz, which does not imply that the king 
was seeking him, or coming to him, but merely specifies the ob- 
ject which he was to seek himself. The Fuller's Field was of 
course without the city, and the highway or causeway mentioned 
may have led either to it or along it, so as to divide it from the 
aqueduct. The command to take his son with him might be 
regarded merely as an incidental circumstance, but for the fact 
that the name Shearjashub is significant, and as we may suppose 
it to have been already known, and the people were familiar 
with the practice of conveying instruction in this form, the very 
sight of the child would perhaps suggest a prophecy, or recall 
one previously uttered, or at least prepare the mind for one to 
come; and accordingly we find in ch. 10: 21 this very phrase 
employed, not as a name, but in its proper sense, a remnant shall 
return. , 

4. The assurance, by which Ahaz is encouraged, is that the 
danger is over, that the fire is nearly quenched, that the 
enemies, who lately seemed like flaming firebrands of war, are 
now mere smoking ends of firebrands ; he is therefore exhorted 
to be quiet and confide in the divine protection. And thou 
shalt say to him, Be cautious and be quiet (or take care to be 
quiet) fear not, nor let thy heart be soft, before (or on account 
of) these two smoking tails of firebrands, in the heat of the anger 



of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. The comparison 
of Rezin and Pekah to the tails or ends of firebrands, instead 
of firebrands themselves, is not a mere expression of contempt, 
but a distinct allusion to the evil which they had already done, 
and which should never be repeated. If the emphasis were 
only in the use of the word tails, the tail of any thing else 
would have been equally appropriate. The smoking remnant 
of a firebrand implies a previous flame, if not a conflagration. 
This confirms the conclusion before drawn, that Judah had 
already been ravaged, and that the narratives in Kings and 
Chronicles are perfectly consistent and relate to the same 

5. Because Syria has devised (meditated, purposed) evil against 
thee, also JSphraim and Remaliah's son, saying. This verse and 
the next may be regarded as a link or connecting clause between 
the exhortation in v. 4 and the promise in v. 7. ( Fear not 
because Syria and Israel thus threaten, for on that very account 
the Lord declares etc.' Here again Syria appears as the prime 
agent and controlling power, although Ephraim is added in the 
second clause. The suppression of Pekah's proper name in this 
clause, and of Rezin's altogether in the first, has given rise to 
various far-fetched explanations, though it seems in fact to 
show, that the use of names in the whole passage is rather 
euphonic or rhythmical than significant. 

6. The invaders themselves are now introduced as consult- 
ing or addressing one another, not at the present moment, 
but at the time when their plan was first concerted. We will 
go up, or let us go up, into Judah, or against it, although this is 
rather implied than expressed, and vex (i. e. harass or distress) 
it, and make a breach in it (thereby subduing it) to ourselves, and 
let us make a king in the midst of it, to wit, the son of Tabeal or 
Tabeel, as the name is written, Ezra 4 : 7. The reference to 


Jerusalem is required by the history, according to which they 
did succeed in their attack upon the kingdom, but were foiled 
in their main design of conquering the royal city. The entrance 
into Jndah was proposed only as a means to this end, and it is 
the failure of this end that is predicted in the next verse. The 
creation of tributary kings by conquerors is mentioned else- 
where in the sacred history (e. g. 2 Kings 23:34. 24:17). 
This familiar reference en passant to the names of persons now 
forgotten, as if familiar to contemporary readers, is a strong 
incidental proof of authenticity. 

7. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah^ it shall not stand (or it shall 
not arise) and it shall not be (or come to pass). The general 
sense is clear, viz. that their design should be defeated. The 
accumulation of divine names is, as usual, emphatic, and seems 
here intended to afford a pledge of the event, derived from the 
supremacy and power of the Being who predicts it. 

8, 9. The plans of the enemy cannot be accomplished, be- 
cause God has decreed that while the kingdoms of Syria and 
Israel continue to exist, they shall remain without enlargement, 
or at least without the addition of Jerusalem or Judah to their 
territories. It shall not stand or come to pass, because the head 
(or capital) of Aram is Damascus (and shall be so still), and the 
head (chief or sovereign) of Damascus is Rezin (and shall be so 
still ; and as for the other power there is as little cause of fear) 
for in yet sixty and five years (in sixty-five years more) shall 
JSphraim be broken from a people (i. e. from being a people, so as 
not to be a people ; and even in the mean time, it shall not be 
enlarged by the addition of Judah) for the head (or capital) of 
Ephraim is Samaria, and the head (chief or sovereign) of Sama- 
ria is RemaliaWs son. If you will not believe (it is) because you 
are not to be established. Here again Syria is the prominent 
object, and Ephraim subjoined, as if by an afterthought. The 


order of ideas is, that Syria shall remain as it is, and as for 
Ephraim it is soon to be destroyed, bat while it does last, it 
shall remain as it is likewise ; Pekah shall never reigu in any 
other capital, nor Samaria be the capital of any other king- 
dom. To this natural expression of the thought corresponds 
the rhythmical arrangement of the sentences, the first clause 
of the eighth verse answering exactly to the first clause of the 
ninth, while the two last clauses, though dissimilar, complete 
the measure. 

For the head of Syria is Damascus — 
And the head of Damascus Rezin — 

And in sixty-five years more etc 
And the head of Ephraim is Samaria — 
And the head of Samaria Remaliah's son — 

If ye will not believe etc 

Whether this be poetry or not, its structure is as regular as 
that of any other period of equal length in the writings of 
Isaiah. As to the substance of these verses, the similar clauses 
have already been explained, as a prediction that the two in- 
vading powers should remain without enlargement. The first 
of the uneven clauses, i. e the last of v. 8, adds to this predic- 
tion, that Ephraim, or the kingdom of the ten tribes, shall 
cease to exist within a prescribed period, which period is so de- 
fined as to include the three successive strokes by which that 
power was annihilated : first, the invasion of Tiglath-pileser, 
two or three years after the date of this prediction (2 Kings 
15 : 29. 16:9); then, the conquest of Samaria, and the depor- 
tation of the ten tribes, by Shalmaneser, about the sixth year 
of Hezekiah (2 Kings 17:6); and finally, the introduction of 
another race by Esar-haddon in the reign of Manasseh (2 Kings 
17 : 24. 2 Chron. 33 : 11. Ezra 4 : 2). Within sixty-five years 
all these events were to occur, and Ephraim, in all these senses, 
was to cease to be a people. It seems then that the language 
of this clause has been carefully selected, so as to include the 


three events which might be represented as destructive of 
Ephraim, while in form it balances the last clause of the next 
verse, and is therefore essential to the rhythmical completeness 
of the passage. 

10. And he (i. e. God, bj the mouth of Isaiah) added to speak 
unto Ahaz, saying. This, according to usage, may either mean 
that he spoke again, on a different occasion, or that he spoke 
further, on the same occasion, which last is the meaning here. 

11. Ask for thee (i. e. for thy own satisfaction) a sign from 
Jehovah thy God (literally from with him, i. e. from his presence 
and his power) ; ask deep or high above (make deep thy re- 
quest or make it high), i. e. ask it either above or below. A sign 
is not necessarily a miracle, nor necessarily a prophecy, but a 
sensible pledge of the truth of something else, whether present, 
past, or future ; sometimes consisting in a miracle (Ex. 4 : 8. 
Judg. 6 : 37. Isai. 38 : 7, 8), but sometimes in a mere prediction 
(Ex. 3 : 12. 1 Sam. 2 : 34. 2 Kings 19 : 29), and sometimes 
only in a symbol, especially a symbolical name or action (Isai. 
8 : 18. 20 : 3. Ezek. 4 : 3). The sign here offered is a proof of 
Isaiah's divine legation, which Ahaz seemed to doubt. The 
offer is a general one, including all the kinds of signs which 
have been mentioned, though the only one which would have 
answered the purpose of accrediting the Prophet was a present 
miracle, as in the case of Moses (Ex. 4 : 30). The phrase thy 
God is emphatic and intended to remind Ahaz of his official 
relation to Jehovah, and as it were to afford him a last opportu- 
nity of profiting by the connection. 

12. And Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not tempt Jeho- 
vah. Some regard this as a contemptuous irony, implying a 
belief that God would not be able to perform his promise or a 
disbelief in the existence of a personal God. We have no reason 


to doubt, however, that Ahaz believed in the existence ot Jeho- 
vah, at least as one among many gods, as a local and national if 
not a supreme deity. It is better, therefore, to understand the 
words as a hypocritical excuse for not obeying the command, 
with obvious allusion to the prohibition in Deut. 6:16, which is 
of course inapplicable to the case of one who is required to choose 
by God himself. His refusal probably arose, not from speculative 
doubts or politic considerations, but from the state of his affections, 
his aversion to the service of Jehovah and his predilection for 
that of other gods, perhaps combined with a belief that in this 
case human aid would be sufficient and a divine interposition 
superfluous ; to which may be added a specific expectation of 
assistance from Assyria, for which he had perhaps already sued 
(2 Kings 16 : 7-9). To tempt God~is not to try him in the way 
of trusting him, nor simply to call in question his power, knowl- 
edge, or veracity, but to put him practically to the test. The 
character of Ahaz is illustrated by a comparison of this refusal 
with the thankful acceptance of such signs by others, and es- 
pecially by his own son Hezekiah, to whom, as Jerome observes, 
signs both in heaven and on earth were granted. 

13. At first Ahaz seemed to doubt only the authority and 
divine legation of the Prophet ; but his refusal to accept the 
offered attestation was an insult to God himself, and is there- 
fore indignantly rebuked by the Prophet. And he said, bear, 1 
pray you, oh house of David ! is it too little for you (is it not 
enough for you) to weary men (i. e to try men's patience), that 
you (must) weary (or try the patience of) my God ? The mean- 
ing is not merely that it is worse to weary God than man, or 
that it was not man but God whom they were wearying ; but 
that having first wearied man, i. e the Prophet by disputing his 
commission, they were now wearying God, by refusing the 
offered attestation. The plural form of the address implies 


that members of his family and court were, ia the Prophet's 
view, already implicated in his unbelief. 

14 The king having refused to ask a sign, the Prophet 
gives him one, by renewing the promise of deliverance (vs. 8, 9) 
and connecting it with the birth of a child, whose significant 
name is made a symbol of the divine interposition, and his 
progress a measure of the subsequent events. Instead of say- 
ing that God would be present to deliver them, he says the 
child shall be called Immanuel (God with us) ; instead of men* 
tioning a term of years, he says, before the child is able to 
distinguish good from evil ; instead of saying that until that 
time the land shall lie waste, he represents the child as eating 
curds and honey, spontaneous products, here put in opposition 
to the fruits of cultivation. At the same time, the form of 
expression is descriptive. Instead of saying simply that the 
child shall experience all this, he represents its birth and in- 
fancy as actually passing in his sight ; he sees the child brought 
forth and named Immanuel ; he sees the child eating curds and 
honey till a certain age. Therefore (because you have refused 
to choose) the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold ! the 
virgin pregnant and bringing forth a son, and she calls his name 
Immanuel (God with us) ; curds and honey shall he eat (because 
the land lies waste) until he shall know (how) to reject the evil 
and to choose the good (but no longer) ; for before the child shall 
know (how) to reject the evil and to choose the good, the land, of 
whose two kings thou art afraid (i. e. Syria and Israel), shall be 
forsaken (i. e. desolate), which of course implies the previous 
deliverance of Judah All interpreters appear to be agreed 
that these three verses contain a threatening of destruction to 
the enemies of Judah, if not a direct promise of deliverance, 
and that this event is connected, in some way, with the birth 
of a child, as the sign or pledge of its certain occurrence. But 
what child is meant, or who is the Immanuel here predicted % 


The various towers to this question may be all reduced to 
three fundamental hypotheses, each of which admits of several 
minor variations. 

I. The first hypothesis is that the only birth and infancy 
referred to in these verses are the birth and infancy of a child 
born (or supposed to be born), in the ordinary course of nature, 
and in the days of Isaiah himself The unessential variations, 
of which this hypothesis is susceptible, have reference chiefly to 
the question what particular child is intended. An objection 
to all the variations of this first hypothesis is, that although 
they may afford a sign, in one of the senses of that term, to 
wit, that of an emblem or symbol, they do not afford such a 
sign as the context would lead us to expect. Ahaz had been 
offered the privilege of choosing any sign whatever, in heaven 
or on earth. Had he actually chosen one, it would no doubt 
have been something out of the ordinary course of nature, as 
in the case of Gideon (Judges 6 : 37-40) and Hezekiah (Isai 
38 : 7, 8). On his refusal to choose, a sign is given him unasked, 
and although it does not necessarily follow that it was precisely 
such as he would have selected — since the object was no longer 
simply to remove his doubts, but to verify the promise and to 
mark the event when it occurred as something which had been 
predicted — yet it seems very improbable that after such an 
offer, the sign bestowed would be merely a thing of every-day 
occurrence, or at most the application of a symbolical name. 
This presumption is strengthened by the solemnity with which 
the Prophet speaks of the predicted birth, not as a usual and 
natural event, but as something which excites his own astonish- 
ment, as he beholds it in prophetic vision. This may prove 
nothing by itself, but is significant when taken in connection 
with the other reasons. The same thing may be said of the 
address to Immanuel, in ch. 8 : 8, and the allusion to the name 
in v. 11, which, although they may admit of explanation in 
consistency with this hypothesis, agree much better with the 


supposition that the prophecy relates to something more than 
a natural and ordinary birth. A still stronger reason for the 
same conclusion is afforded by the parallel passage in ch. 9 : 5, 
6, occurring in the same connected series of prophecies. There, 
as here, the birth of a child is given as a pledge of safety and 
deliverance, but with the important addition of a full descrip- 
tion, which, as we shall see below, is wholly inapplicable to any 
ordinary human child, however high in rank or full of promise. 
If led by these remarkable coincidences to examine more at- 
tentively the terms of the prophecy itself, we find the mother 
of the promised child described, not as a woman or as any 
particular woman merely, but by a term which in the six places 
where it occurs elsewhere, is twice applied to young unmarried 
females certainly (Gen. 24 : 43. Ex. 2 : 8), and twice most 
probably (Ps. 68 : 25, Sol. S. 1 : 3), while in the two remaining 
cases (Sol. S. 1 : 8, Prov. 30 : 19) this application is at least as 
probable as any other. It would therefore naturally suggest 
the idea of a virgin, or at least of an unmarried woman. A 
virgin or unmarried woman is designated here as distinctly as 
she could be by a single word. Its use in this connection, es- 
pecially when added to the other reasons previously mentioned, 
makes it, to say the least, extremely probable that the event 
foretold is something more than a birth in the ordinary course 
of nature. So too, the name Immanuel, although it might be 
used to signify God's providential presence merely (Ps 46 : 8, 1 1. 
89 : 25. Josh. 1 : 5. Jer. 1 : 8. Isai. 43 : 2), has a latitude and preg- 
nancy of meaning which can scarcely be fortuitous, and which, 
combined with ail the rest, makes the conclusion almost un- 
avoidable, that it was here intended to express a personal as 
well as a providential presence. If to this we add the early 
promise of salvation through the seed of the woman (Gen. 3 : 
15), rendered more definite by later revelations, and that re- 
markable expression of Isaiah's contemporary prophet Micah 
(5 : 2), vniil the time thai she which travaileth hath brought forth, 



immediately following the promise of a ruler, to be bora* in 
Bethlehem, but whose goings forth have been from old, from ever* 
lasting — the balance of probabilities, as furnished bj the Old 
Testament exclusively, preponderates decidedly in favour of 
the supposition, that Isaiah's words had reference to a miracu- 
lous conception and nativity. When we read, therefore, in the 
gospel of Matthew, that Jesus Christ was actually born of a 
virgin, and that all the circumstances of his birth came to pass 
that this very prophecy might be fulfilled, it has less the ap- 
pearance of an unexpected application, than of a conclusion 
rendered necessary by a series of antecedent facts and reasons, 
the last link in a long chain of intimations more or less ex- 
plicit The question, however, still arises, how the birth of 
Christ, if here predicted, is to be connected with the promise 
made to Ahaz, as a sign of the event, or as a measure of die 
time of its fulfilment ? 

II. The second hypothesis removes this difficulty by suppos- 
ing that the prophecy relates to two distinct births and two 
different children. Of this general theory there are two 
important modifications. 1. The first supposes one child to be 
mentioned in v. 14, and another in v. 16. Nothing but extreme 
exegetical necessity could justify the reference of vs. 15, 16, to 
any person not referred to in v. 14. 2. This difficulty is 
avoided in the second modification of the general hypothesis 
that the passage (as a whole) refers to two distinct births and 
to different children, by assuming that both are mentioned m 
the fourteenth verse itself. This is the supposition of a double 
sense, though some refuse to recognize it by that name. The 
essence of the theory is this, that while v. 14, in its obvious and 
primary sense, relates to the birth of a child in the ordinary 
course of nature, its terms are so selected as to be descriptive, 
in a higher sense, of the miraculous nativity of Christ. The 
minor variations of this general hypothesis have referenoe 
chiefly to the particular child intended by the prophecy in its 


lower sense, whether a son of Isaiah himself, or any child born 
within a certain time. The objections to it are its complexity, 
and what seems to be the arbitrary nature of the assumption 
upon which it rests. It seems to be a feeling common to learned 
and unlearned readers, that although a double sense is not 
impossible, and must in certain cases be assumed, it is unrea- 
sonable to assume it, when any other explanation is admissible. 
The improbability in this case is increased by the want of 
similarity between the two events, supposed to be predicted in 
the very same words, the one miraculous, the other not only 
natural but common and of every-day occurrence. That two 
such occurrences should be described in the same words, simply 
because they were both signs or pledges of a promise, though 
not impossible, can only be made probable by strong corrobora- 
ting proofs, especially if any simpler mode of exposition be at 
all admissible. Another objection, which lies equally against 
this hypothesis and the one first mentioned is, that in its 
primary and lower sense it does not afford such a sign as the 
context and the parallel passages would lead us to expect, unless 
we suppose that the higher secondary sense was fully under- 
stood at the time of the prediction, and in that case, though the 
birth of the Messiah from a virgin would be doubtless a suffi- 
cient sign, it would, for that very reason, seem to make the 
lower one superfluous. None of these reasons seem however to 
be decisive against the supposition of a double sense, as com- 
monly understood, unless there be some other way in which its 
complexity qnd arbitrary character may be avoided, and at the 
same time the connection between the birth of the Messiah and 
the deliverance of Judah satisfactorily explained. 

III. The third general hypothesis proposes to effect this by 
applying all three verses directly and exclusively to the Messiah, 
as the only child whose birth is there predicted, and his 
growth made the measure of the subsequent events. The minor 
variations of this general hypothesis relate to the time when 


these events were to occur, and to the sense in which the growth 
of the Messiah is adopted as the measure of them. The 
simplest form in which this theory has been applied, is that 
exhibited by those who suppose the prediction to relate to the 
real time of Christ's appearance, and the thing foretold to be 
the desolation which should take place before the Saviour 
reached a certain age. To this it is an obvious objection that 
it makes the event predicted too remote to answer the condi- 
tions of the context, or the purpose of the prophecy itself. 

In expounding this difficult and interesting passage, it has 
been considered more important to present a tolerably full 
view of the different opinions, arranged according to the princi- 
ples on which they rest, than to assert the exclusive truth of 
any one interpretation as to all its parts. In summing up the 
whole, however, it may be confidently stated, that the first 
hypothesis is false ; that the first modifications of the second 
and third are untenable ; and that the choice lies between the 
supposition of a double sense and that of a reference to Christ 
exclusively, but in connection with the promise of immediate 
deliverance to Ahaz. The two particular interpretations which 
appear to me most plausible and least beset with difficulties are 
these. Either the Prophet, while he foretells the birth of 
Christ, foretells that of another child, during whose infancy the 
promised deliverance shall be experienced ; or else he makes 
the infancy of Christ himself, whether foreseen as still remote 
or not, the sign and measure of that same deliverance. While 
some diversity of judgment ought to be expected and allowed, 
in relation to this secondary question, there is no ground, 
grammatical, historical, or logical, for doubt as to the main 
point, that the church in all ages has been right in regarding 
this passage as a signal and explicit prediction of the miraculous 
conception and nativity of Jesus Christ. 

15. This verse and the next have already been translated in 


connection with the fourteenth, upon which connection their 
interpretation must depend. It will here be necessary only to 
explain one or two points more distinctly. Butter (or curds) 
and honey shall he eat, until he knows (how) to reject the evil and 
to choose the good. The simple sense of the prediction is that 
the desolation of Judah, caused by the invasion of Rezin and 
Pekah, should be only temporary. This idea is symbolically 
expressed by making the new-born child subsist during his in- 
fancy on curds and honey, instead of the ordinary food of an 
agricultural population. This is clearly the meaning of the 
same expression in v. 22, as we shall see below. The essential 
idea is that the desolation should not last until a child then 
born could reach maturity, and probably not longer than his 
first few years. 

16. The desolation shall be temporary, /ar before the child 
shall know {how) to reject the evil and to choose the good, the land, 
of whose two kings thou art afraid (or by whose two kings thou art 
distressed), shall be forsaken, i. e. left by its inhabitants and 
given up to desolation, in which sense the same verb is used 
elsewhere by Isaiah (ch. 17:2. 27 : 10. 62 : 12. Comp. 6 : 12). 
The land here meant is Syria and Israel, spoken of as one 
because confederate against Judah. The wasting of these 
kingdoms and the deportation of their people by Tiglath pileser 
(2 Kings 15 : 29. 16 : 9) is here predicted, which of course 
implies the previous deliverance of Judah and the brief dura- 
tion of its own calamity, so that this verse assigns a reason for 
the representation in the one preceding. The true connection 
of these verses has been well explained to be this, that Judah 
shall lie waste for a short time, and only for a short time, for 
before that short time is expired, its invaders shall themselves 
be invaded and destroyed. A child is born — he learns to dis- 
tinguish good and evil — but before the child is able to distin- 
guish good and evil, something happens. If these three clauses, 


thus succeeding one another, do not speak of the same child, it 
is impossible for language to be so employed as to identify the 
subject without actually saying that it is the same. 

17. Again addressing Ahaz, he assures him that although he 
shall escape the present danger, God will inflict worse evils on 
himself and his successors, by means of those very allies whose 
assistance he is now seeking. Jehovah will bring upon thee (not 
merely as an individual, but as a king) and on thy people, and 
on thy father's house (or family, the royal line of Judah) days 
which have not come since the departure of Ephraim from Judah, to 
wit, the king of Assyria. All versions and interpreters under- 
stand the verse as declaring the days threatened to be worse 
than any which had come upon Judah since the revolt of the 
ten tribes, here called Ephraim, from the largest and most 
powerful tribe, that to which Jeroboam belonged, and within 
which the chief towns of the kingdom were situated. This 
declaration seems at first sight inconsistent with the fact, 
demonstrable from sacred history, that the injuries sustained 
by Judah, during the interval here specified, from other foreign 
powers, as for example from the Egyptians in the reign of 
Kehoboam (2 Chron. 12 : 2-9), from the Philistines and Ara- 
bians in the reign of Jehorain (2 Chron. 21 : 16, 17), from the 
Syrians in the reign of Joash (2 Chron. 24 : 23, 24), not to 
mention the less successful attacks of the Ethiopians in the 
reign of Asa (2 Chron. 14 : 8-15), and of Moab and Ammon in 
the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20 : 1-30), or the frequent 
incursions of the ten tribes, must have greatly overbalanced the 
invasion of Sennacherib, by far the most alarming visitation of 
Judah by the armies of Assyria. But let it be observed that the 
days here threatened were to be worse, not simply with respect 
to individual suffering or temporary difficulties of the state 
itself, but to the loss of its independence, its transition to a 
servile state, from which it was never permanently freed, the 


domination of Assyria being* soon succeeded by that of Egypt. 
And this by that of Babylon, Persia, Syria, and Rome, the last 
ending only in the downfall of the state, and that general dis- 
porsion of the people which continues to this day. The revolt 
of Hezekiah and even longer intervals of liberty in later times, 
are mere interruptions of the customary and prevailing bondage. 
Of this critical change it surely might be said, even though it 
were to cost not a single drop of blood, nor the personal freedom 
of a single captive, that the Lord was about to bring upon Judah 
days which had not been witnessed from the time of Ephraim's 
apostasy, or according to another construction of the text, at 
any time whatever ; since none of the evils suffered, from Solo- 
mon to Ahaz, had destroyed the independence of Judah, not 
even the Egyptian domination in the reign of Rehoboam, which 
only lasted long enough to teach the Jews the difference 
between God's service and the service of the kingdoms of the coun- 
tries (2 Chron. 12:8). This view of the matter is abundantly 
sufficient to reconcile the prophecy with history, whether 
Assyria be understood to mean the kingdom properly so called, 
or to include the empires which succeeded it ; and whether the 
threatening be referred exclusively to Ahaz and his times, or 
to him and his successors jointly, which appears to be the true 
sense of thy people and thy father '$ house, as distinguished from 
himself and his own house ; but even on the other supposition, 
as the change of times, i. e. the transition from an independent 
to a servile state, took place before the death of Ahaz, the 
expressions used are perfectly consistent with the facts. It is 
implied, of course, in this interpretation, that Sennacherib's in- 
vasion was not the beginning of the days here threatened, 
which is rather to be sought in the alliance between Ahaz and 
Tiglath-pileser, who came unto him, and distressed him, and 
strengthened him not (2 Chron. 28 : 19, 20), but exacted repeated 
contributions from him as a vassal ; which degrading and 
oppressive intercourse continued till his death, as appears from 


the statement (2 Kings 18:7) that Hezekiah rebelled against the 
king of Assyria, and served him not, clearly implying that he did 
at first, as he offered to do afterwards, on Sennacherib's approach, 
with confession of his fault, a renewal of his tribute, and a 
repetition of his father's sacrilege (2 Kings 18 : 13-16). That 
during the whole term of this foreign ascendency, Judah was 
infested by Assyrian intruders, and by frequent visitations for 
the purpose of extorting their unwilling tribute, till at last the 
revolt of Hezekiah, no longer able to endure the burden, led to 
a formal occupation of the country, is not only probable in itself 
but seems to be implied in the subsequent context (vs. 18-20). 

18. The evil times just threatened are here more explicitly 
described as arising from the presence and oppression of for- 
eigners, especially Assyrians and Egyptians, whose number and 
vexatious impositions are expressed by comparing them to 
swarms of noxious and annoying insects, pouring into the 
country by divine command. And it shall be (or come to pass) 
in that day (in the days just threatened) that Jehovah will hiss 
(or whistle) to (or for) the fly which (is) in the end (or edge) of 
the rivers of Egypt, and to (or for) the bee which is in Assyria? 
The fly is peculiarly appropriate to Egypt, where the marshy 
grounds produce it in abundance, and there may be a reference 
to the plague of flies in Exodus. The end of the streams of 
Egypt evidently means something belonging to Egypt, viz the 
arms of the Delta or the remotest streams, implying that the 
flies should come from the very extremities, or from the whole 
land. By rendering it brink or border, as the common version 
does in Josh. 3: 8. Ex. 16:35, an equally good sense is ob- 
tained, viz. that the flies shall come from the banks of the 
streams, where they are most abundant. The hiss or whistle, 
denoting God's control over these enemies of Judah, has the 
same sense as in ch. 5 : 26. Assyria and Egypt are here named 
as the two great rival powers who disturbed the peace *f West- 


era Asia, and to whom the land of Israel was both a place and 
subject of contention. The reference is not exclusively to ac- 
tual invasion, but to the annoying and oppressive occupation of 
the country by civil and military agents of these foreign 
powers. It was not merely attacked but infested, by the flies 
and bees of Egypt and Assyria. 

19. Carrying out the figures of the preceding verse, the 
Prophet, instead of simply saying that the land shall be infested 
by foreigners, represents it as completely filled with bees and 
flies, who are described as settling upon all the places com- 
monly frequented by such insects. And they come and rest (or 
settle) all of them in the desolate (or precipitous) valleys, and in 
the clefts of rocks, and in all thorn-hedges, and in all pastures. 
The words seem naturally to express the general notion of a 
country overrun, infested, filled with foreigners and enemies, 
not only by military occupation but in other ways. ' 

20. Had the Prophet, as Hendewerk suggests, represented 
the invaders as locusts, he would probably have gone on to de- 
scribe them as devouring the land ; but having chosen bees and 
flies as the emblem, he proceeds to express the idea of their 
spoliations by a different figure, that of a body closely shorn 
or shaven by a razor under the control of God and in his ser- 
vice. In that day (the same day mentioned in v. 19) will the 
Lord shave, with a razor hired in the 'parts beyond the river 
(Euphrates), (that is to say) with the king of Assyria, the head 
and the hair of the feet (i. e. of both extremities, or of the whole 
body), and also the beard will it (the razor) lake away. As Ahaz 
had profaned and robbed God's bouse to hire a foreign razor, 
with which Israel and Syria might be shaven, so God would 
make use of that self-same razor to shave Judah, i. e. to remove 
its population, or its wealth, or both. The separate mention 


of the beard may have reference to the oriental fondness for it' 
and associations of dishonour with the loss of it. 

21, 22. In consequence of these spoliations, the condition of 
the country will be wholly changed. The population left shall 
not be agricultural but pastoral. Instead of living on the fruits 
of the soil, they shall subsist upon spontaneous products, such 
as milk and honey, which shall be abundant only because the 
people will be few and the uncultivated grounds extensive. 
And it shall be in thai day {that) a man shall save (or keep) alive 
a young cow and two sheep ; and it shall be {that) from the abun- 
dance of the making (yielding or production) of milk, he shall eat 
butter (or curds or cheese or cream) ; for butter and honey shall every 
one eat that is lift in the midst of (or within) the land. The word 
translated save alive is used to denote the preservation of one's 
life in danger (Ps. 30 : 4) ; so that unless we depart from its 
proper meaning here, it must denote not merely the keeping or 
raising of the cow and sheep, but their being saved from a 
greater number, and preserved with difficulty, not for want of 
pasture, which was more than ever plentiful, but from the 
presence of invaders and enemies. Thus understood, the word 
throws light upon the state of the country, as described in the 
context. The abundance is of course to be relatively under- 
stood, with respect to the small number of persons to be fed, 
and is therefore an additional and necessary stroke in the 
prophetic picture — few cattle left, and yet those few sufficient 
to afford milk in abundance to the few inhabitants. This 
abundance is expressed still more strongly by describing them 
as eating not the milk itself, but that which is produced from 
it, and which of course must bear a small proportion to the 
whole ; and as this is the essential idea meant to be conveyed 
it matters little whether it be understood to mean butter, cheese, 
cream, or curds, though the last seems to agree best with what 
we know of oriental usages. It is here mentioned neither as a 


delicacy nor as plain and ordinary food, but as a kind of diet 
independent of the cultivation of the earth, and therefore im- 
plying a neglect of tillage and a pastoral mode of life, as well 
as an unusual extent of pasturage, which may have ref rence, 
not only to the milk but to the honey. Boswell, in the journal 
of his tour with Dr. Johnson to the Hebrides, observes of the 
inhabitants of one of the poor islands, that " they lived all the 
spring without meal, upon milk and curds and whey alone." 
This verse, then, is descriptive of abundance only as connected 
with a paucity of people and a general neglect of tillage. It 
was designed indeed to be directly expressive neither of abun- 
dance nor of poverty, but of a change in the condition of the 
country and of the remaining people, which is further described 
in the ensuing context. 

23. Having described the desolation of the country indirectly, 
by saying what the food of the inhabitants should be, the 
Prophet now describes it more directly, by predicting the 
growth of thorns and briers, even in spots which had been 
sedulously cultivated, for example the most valuable vineyards. 
And it shall be (or come to pass) in that day (that) every place, 
where there shall be a thousand vines at (or for) a thousand silver- 
lings (pieces or shekels of silver), shall be for (or become) thorns 
and briers, or shall be (given up) to the thorn and to the brier. 
Most writers seem to confine the threatening to the thorns and 
briers, and to regard the thousand silver lings as a part of the 
description of a valuable vineyard, though they differ on the 
question whether this was the price for which the vineyard 
might be sold, or its annual rent, as in Sol. Song 8:11, where, 
however, it is said to be the price of the fruit, and the number 
of vines is not mentioned. Henderson computes that it was 
nearly one-half more than the price at which the vineyards of 
Mount Lebanon were sold in 1811, according to Burckhardt, 
namely a piastre for each vine. 


24. So complete shall be the desolation of these once favoured 
spots that men shall pass through them armed as they would 
through a wilderness. With arrows and with bow shall one (or 
shall a man) go thither, because thorns and briers shall the whole 
land be. The essential idea, as the last clause shows, is that of 
general desolation ; there is no need, therefore, of supposing 
that the bows and arrows have exclusive reference to protection, 
as it would be natural to carry weapons into such a region both 
for protection and the chase. It is no objection to the mention 
of the latter, that the people had just been represented as sub- 
sisting upon milk and honey, since these two methods of subsist- 
ence often coexist, as belonging to the same state of society) 
and both imply a general neglect of tillage. The exact sense 
of the last clause is not that the land shall become thorns and 
briers (English version), as in v. 24, but that it shall actually be 
thorns and briers. 

25. Not only the fields, not only the vineyards, shall be 
overrun with thorns and briers, but the very hills, now labori- 
ously cultivated with the hand, shall be given up to like desola- 
tion. And all the hills (i. e. even all the hills) which are digged 
with the hoe (because inaccessible to the plough) — thou shall not 
go (even) there, for fear of briers and thorns, and (being thus 
uncultivated) they shall be for a sending-place of cattle and a 
trampling-place of sheep (i. e. a place where cattle may be sent 
to pasture, and which may be trodden down by sheep). The 
reference is probably to the hills of Judea, anciently cultivated 
to the very top, by means of terraces that still exist, for an 
aeoount of which by eye-witnesses, see Keith's Land of Israel, 
chapter xn., and Kobinson's Palestine, vol. II. p. 187. Thus 
understood, the verse merely strengthens the foregoing de- 
scription, by declaring that even the most carefully cultivated 
portions of the land should not escape the threatened desola- 
tion. This verse continues and completes the description of 


the general desolation, as manifested first by the people's living 
upon milk and honey, then by the growth of thorns and briers 
in the choicest vineyards and the terraced hills, and by the 
conversion of these carefully tilled spots into dangerous soli- 
tudes, hunting-grounds, and pastures. 


The prediction of the overthrow of Syria and Israel is now 
renewed in the form of a symbolical name, to be inscribed on a 
tablet and attested by two witnesses, and afterwards applied to 
the Prophet's new-born son, whose progress as an infant is 
made the measure of the event, vs. 1-4. It is then foretold 
that the judgment denounced upon Syria and Israel should 
extend to Judah, as a punishment for distrust of God and 
reliance upon human aid, in consequence of which the kingdom 
should be imminently threatened with destruction, yet delivered 
for the sake of Immanuel, by whom the strength and wisdom 
of all enemies should be alike defeated, vs. 5-10. The Messiah 
himself is then introduced as speaking, warning the Prophet and 
the true believers neither to share in the apprehensions nor to 
fear the reproaches of the people, but to let Jehovah be an ob- 
ject of exclusive fear and reverence to them, as he would be an 
occasion of destruction to the unbelievers, from whom the true 
sense of this revelation was to be concealed, and restricted to 
his followers, who, together with the Prophet and the Son of 
God himself, should be for signs and wonders to the multitude, 
while waiting for the manifestation of his presence, and refusing 
to consult any other oracle except the word of God, an authority 
despised by none but those doomed to the darkness of despair, 
which is described as settling down upon them, with a sudden 
intimation* at the close, of a change for the better, especially in 


time fixed is that of the child's capacity not to reoogniie Us 
parents, or to talk, but to utter the simple labial sounds by 
which in Hebrew as in many other languages father and mother 
are expressed. The time denoted was hi tended to be somewhat 
indefinite, equivalent perhaps to our familiar phrase a year or 
two, within which time we have reason to believe that the event 
occurred. There is no reason to doubt that Samaria was 
plundered by Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15 : 29) although not de- 
stroyed, which idea is in fact not conveyed by the terms of the 
description. The carrying away of its wealth does not neces- 
sarily imply any thing more than such a spoiling of the capital 
as might be expected in the course of a brief but successful 

5. And Jehovah added to speak to me again (or further) saying. 
Here, as in ch. 7 : 10, an interval of time may be assumed. 

6. The Assyrian invasion is now represented as a punish- 
ment of Judah for distrusting the divine protection and seek- 
ing that of the Assyrians themselves. The immediate relief 
thus secured was to be followed by a worse calamity produced 
by those in whom they now confided Because this people 
(Judah, so called in token of divine displeasure) hath forsaken 
(or rejected with contempt) the waters of Shiloah (or Siloam, 
the only perennial fountain of Jerusalem, here used as a symbol 
of the divine protection) that go softly (or flow gently, unac- 
companied by noise or danger), and (because there is) joy with 
respect to Rezin and the son ofRemaliah (i. e because the Jews 
are exulting in the retreat of their invaders, caused by the 
approach of the Assyrians), therefore, etc. the apodosis of the 
sentence being given in the next verse. 

7. Therefore (because the people had thus ceased to trust in 
the divine protection, and rejoiced in the success of their ap- 


plication to Assyria), behold (as if the event were actually pres- 
ent), Jehovah (is) bringing up upon them the waters of the river 
(i. e. the Euphrates, as an emblem of the Assyrian power), its 
strong and many waters (here contrasted with the gently flow- 
ing waters of Siloam), to wit, the king of Assyria and all his 
glory (with particular reference to military strength and dis- 
play), and it (the river) shall come up over all its channels and 
go over all its banks, which may either mean that it shall tran- 
scend its usual limits, or that after submerging Israel, it shall 
overflow into Judah also. In favour of this last interpretation 
is the language of the next verse, and the fact that otherwise 
the punishment of Ephraim or the ten tribes is not expressly 
mentioned. The figure of an overflowing river is peculiarly 
appropriate, not only as affording a striking antithesis to the 
fountain mentioned in the sixth verse, but because it is often 
used absolutely to denote the Euphrates, the great river of the 
Assyrian and Babylonian empires. The beauty of the meta- 
phor is rendered still more striking by the frequent allusions, 
both in ancient and modern writers, to the actual inundations 
of this river. Here, as in ch. 7:17, 18, the figures are ex- 
plained in literal expressions by the Prophet himself. 

8. And it (the river) shall pass over (from Syria and Israel) 
into Judah, overflow and pass through (so as nearly to submerge 
it), to the neck shall it reach (but not above the head), and the 
spreadings of its wings shall be the filling of thy land, O Im- 
manuel ! The English version disturbs the metaphor by using 
the personal pronoun he so as to refer this verse directly to the 
king, and not to the river which represented him. The ex- 
pression the neck was intended to denote nothing more than 
the imminency of the danger by figures borrowed from # case 
of drowning, the head alone being left above the water. Most 
writers suppose the figure of a stream to be exchanged in the 
last clause for that of a bird, or for the description of an army ; 



but others understand wings to be used here, as often ebe- 
where, in the sense of sides or lateral extremities, and applied 
to the river itself. 

9. He now turns to the enemies of Judah and assures them 
of the failure of their hostile plana The prediction, as in ch. 
6 : 9, is clothed in the form of an ironical command or exhorta- 
tion. Be wicked (i. e. indulge jour malice, do your worst) and 
be broken (disappointed and confounded), and (that not only 
Syria and Israel, but) give ear all remote parts of the earth (who- 
ever may attack the chosen people), gird yourselves (i e. arm 
and equip yourselves for action) and be broken, gird yourselves 
and be broken (the repetition implying the certainty of the 
event). The failure or disappointment threatened is of course 
that of their ultimate design to overthrow the kingdom of 
Judah, and does not exclude the possibility of -partial and tem- 
porary successes. 

10. Not only their strength but their sagacity should be 
confounded. Devise a plan, and it shall be defeated (nullified or 
brought to nought), speak a word (whether a proposition or an 
order), and it shall not stand (or be carried into execution ),for 
(Immanuel) God (is) with us. Even as a name Immanuel contains 
a proposition, and here this proposition is distinctly announced, 
but with a designed allusion to the person whom the name 
describes. As if he had said, ' the assurance of your safety is 
the great truth expressed by the name of your deliverer, to wit, 
that God is with us.' The mere retention of the Hebrew word 
could not convey its sense in this connection to the English 

11. The triumphant apostrophe in v. 10 is now justified by 
an appeal to the divine authority. I have reason to address 
our enemies in this tons, for thus, said Jehovah to me in strength 


of hand (L e when his hand was strong upon me, when I was 
under the influence of inspiration), and instructed me away from 
walking in the way of this people (i. e. warned me not to follow 
the example of the unbelieving Jews). When one is spoken of 
in Scripture as inspired, it is said not only that the spirit was 
upon him (Ezek. 1 1 : 5), but also that the hand of Jehovah was 
upon him (Ezek. 1 : 3. 3 : 22. 33 : 22. 37 : 1), and in one case at 
least that it was strong upon him (Ezek. 3 : 14). Hence 
strength of hand may have the sense of inspiration, and the 
whole phrase here employed be equivalent in meaning to the 
New Testament expressions &v npetficm, (Rev. 1 : 10), I* 
ixordoe* (Acts 11:5), iv dtivape* xal nvevftaxi dyly (1 Thess. 

12. The words of God himself are now recorded. Saying, ye 
shall not call conspiracy (or treason) every thing which this people 
calleth conspiracy (or treason), and its fear ye shall not fear nor be 
afraid. The correct view of the passage seems to be this. The 
unbelieving fears of the people led them to seek foreign aid. 
From this they were dissuaded by the Prophet and his followers, 
who regarded it as a violation of their duty to Jehovah. This 
opposition, like the conduct of Jeremiah during the Babylonian 
siege, was regarded by the king and his adherents as a treason- 
able combination to betray them to their enemies. But God 
himself commands the Prophet and the true believers not to be 
affected by this false reproach, not to regard the cry of treason 
or conspiracy, nor share in the real or pretended terrors of the 

13. Jehovah of Hosts, him shall ye sanctify (i. e. regard and 
treat as a Holy God, and as the Holy One of Israel), and he 

~ shall be your fear, and he your dread, i. e. the object of these 
feelings. If they felt as they ought towards God, as supreme 
and almighty, and as their own peculiar God, with whom they 


were united in a national covenant they could not so distrait 
him as to be alarmed at the approach of any earthly danger. 
The collocation of the words makes the sentence more emphatic. 
Him shall ye fear is substantially equivalent to Him alone shall 
ye fear. Thus explained, the passage is at once a condemnation 
of the terror inspired by the approach of the two kings, and of 
the application, which it had occasioned, to Assyria for aid 
against them. 

14. And he (Jehovah) shall be for (or become) a holy thing 
(an object to be sanctified) and for a stone of stumbling and for a 
rock of offence (i. e. a stone to strike against and stumble over) to 
the two houses of Israel (Ephraiin and Judith), for a gin (or trap) 
and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. God was the only 
proper object to be dreaded, feared, and sanctified, L e. regarded 
as a holy being in the widest and the most emphatic sense. 
Thus explained, the Hebrew word corresponds almost exactly 
to the Greek t6 ayiov, the term applied to Christ by the angel 
who announced his birth (Luke 1 : 35) In 1 Peter 2 : 7, where 
this very passage is applied to Christ, ^ n/u^ seems to be 
employed as an equivalent to the word as here used. To 
others he is a stone of stumbling, but to you who believe he is 
^ t</vjj, something precious, something honoured, something 
looked upon as holy. The same application of the words is 
made -by Paul in Rom. 9 : 33. These quotations seem to show 
that the Prophet's words have an extensive import, and are not 
to be restricted either to his own times or the time of Christ 
The doctrine of the text is. that even the most glorious exhibi- 
tions of God's holiness, i. e of his infinite perfection, may 
occasion the destruction of the unbeliever. The most signal 
illustration of this general truth was that afforded in the advent 
of the Saviour. It was frequently exemplified, however, in the 
interval, and one of these exemplifications was afforded by the 
conduct of the unbelieving Jews in the reign of Ahaz, to whom 


the only power that could save them was converted by their 
own unbelief into a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. 
The same idea is then expressed by another simple and familiar 
figure, that of a snare or trap. Both figures naturally suggest 
the idea of inadvertence and unforeseen ruin. The sense is not 
that Jehovah would be sanctified by Judah, and become a 
stumbling-block to Israel ; but that to some in either house or 
family these opposite events would happen. The inhabitants 
of Jerusalem are distinctly mentioned as the most conspicuous 
and influential members of the nation, just as Jerusalem itself 
is sometimes mentioned in connection with Judah, which really 
included it. 

15. This verse completes the threatening by an explicit 
declaration that Jehovah would not only be a stumbling-block 
and snare to the houses of Israel, but that many should actually 
fall and be ensnared and broken. And many shall stumble over 
them (the stone and snare) or among them (the children of 
Israel) and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 

16. Bind up the testimony, seal the law, in my disciples. 
These are not the words of the Prophet speaking in his own 
person, but a command addressed to him by God, or as some 
suppose by the Messiah. It is commonly agreed, that the 
Prophet is commanded to tie up a roll or volume, and to seal 
it, thereby closing it By law and testimony here we may either 
understand the prophetic inscription in v. 1, or the whole pre- 
ceding context, considered as included in the general sense of 
revelation, as God's testimony to the truth and as a law or 
declaration of his will. The disciples, or those taught of God, 
probably mean the better portion of the people, those truly 
enlightened because taught of God (ch. 54 : 13), to whom the 
knowledge of this revelation, or at least of its true meaning, was 
to be restricted. The act described is not that of literally bind- 


ing and sealing up a material record, bat that of spiritually 
closing and depositing the revelation of God's will in the heart! 
of those who were able and willing to receive it, with allusion 
at the same time to its concealment from all others. 

17. And I (the Messiah) will wait for Jehovah that hidethku 
face from the house, of Jacob, and will expect him. Most writen 
make these the words of the Prophet ; but since he is addressed 
in the verse preceding, without any intimation of a change of 
speaker here, and since the next verse is quoted in Heb. 2 : 13, 
as the words of the Messiah, it seems better to assume, that 
throughout this passage the Messiah is the speaker. The phrtst 
to wait upon has changed its meaning since the date of the Eng- 
lish version, the prominent idea being now that of service and 
attendance, not as of old that of expectation, which is the 
meaning of the Hebrew verb. God's hiding his face from thf 
house of Jacob implies not only outward troubles but the 
withholding of divine illumination, indirectly threatened in the 
verse preceding. The house of Jacob is the whole race of 
Israel, perhaps with special reference to Judah. The thing to 
be expected is the fulness of time when the Messiah, no longer 
revealed merely to a few, should openly appear. For a time the 
import of God's promises shall be concealed from the majority, 
and during that interval Messiah shall wait patiently until the 
set time has arrived. 

18. Behold, I and the children which Jehovah hath given fltf 
(are)ybr signs and for wonders in Israel from Jehovah of Hosts, 
the ( One) dwelling in Mount Zion. Of the whole verse there 
are two distinct interpretations. 1. According to some Isaiah 
is the speaker, and the children meant are his two sons Shear- 
jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, to which some add ImmanueL 
As all these names, and that of the Prophet himself, are sig- 
nificant, it is supposed that for this reason he and his children 


are said to be signs and wonders, personified prophecies to Israel, 
from Jehovah, who had caused the names to be imposed. 2. 
According to many writers, these are the words of the Messiah, 
and the children are his spiritual seed (IsaL 53 : 10), whom the 
Father had given him (John 6: 37, 39. 10: 29. 17 : 6, 7, 9, 11, 
12). The great argument in favour of this last interpretation 
is the application of the verse to Christ by Paul (Heb. 2 : 13), 
not as an illustration but an argument, a proof, that Christ par- 
took of the same nature with the persons called his children and 
big brethren. It is true that many who regard Isaiah as the speaker 
suppose him to have been a type of Christ in this transaction. 
But a double sense ought not to be assumed where a single one 
is perfectly consistent with the context, and sufficient to explain 
all apparent contradictions, as in this case, where admitting that 
the Messiah is the speaker, we have no ellipsis to supply, and 
no occasion to resort to the hypothesis either of a type or an 
accommodation. It is not necessary, however, to restrict the 
terms, to the period of the advent, and to our Saviour's per- 
sonal followers. Even before he came in the flesh, he and his 
disciples, L e. all who looked for his appearing, were signs and 
wonders, objects of contemptuous astonishment, and at the 
same time pledges of the promise. 

19. And when they (indefinitely any one, or definitely the uttr 
believers) shall say to you (the disciples and children of Messiah, 
who is still speaking), seek unto (i. e. consult as an oracle) the 
spirits (or the spirit-masters, those who have subject or familiar 
spirits at command) and to the wizards (wise or knowing ones), 
the chirpers and the mutterers (alluding to the way in which the 
heathen necromancers invoked their spirits, or uttered their 
responses) should not a people seek to (or consult) its God, for the 
living (i. e. in behalf of the living should it resort) to the dead 1 
The last clause is the reply of the believing Jews to those who 
tempted them. ' When yon, my disoiples, are invited by «*- 


perstitious sinners to consult pretended wizards, consider (or 
reply) that as the heathen seek responses from their gods, so 
you ought to consult Jehovah, and not be guilty of the folly 
of consulting senseless idols or dead men for the instruction, 
of the living.' 


20. Instead of resorting to these unprofitable and forbidden 
sources, the disciples of Jehovah are instructed to resort to the 
law and to the testimony (i. e. to divine revelation, considered 
as a system of belief and as a rule of duty) if they speak (i. e. 
if any speak) not according to this word (another name for the 
revealed will of God), it is he to whom there is no dawn, or 
morning (i. e. no relief from the dark night of calamity). The 
first clause is elliptical. None can speak inconsistently with 
God's word — or, none can refuse to utter this word, viz. to the 
law and to the testimony — but one whom God has abandoned. 
" If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." (2 Cor. 
4:3.) As night is a common figure for calamity, the dawn will 
naturally signify its termination, the return of better times. 
(See ch. 58 : 8. 47 : 1 1. Job 1 1 : 17.) They may be said to have 
no dawn, for whom there is nothing better in reserve. 

21. And they (the people) shall pass through it (the land) 
hardly bestead (i. e. distressed) and hungry ; and it shall be (or 
come to pass) that when they are hungry they shall fret them- 
selves, and curse their king and their God, and shall look upward. 
His king is Jehovah considered as the king of Israel The 
last clause is really in close connection with the first of the next 
verse, and both together must be understood as indicating utter 
perplexity and absolute despair of help from God or man, from 
heaven or earth, from above or below. 

22. And to the earth he shall look, and behold distress and dark- 
ness, dimness of anguish, and into darkness (he shall be) driven 


", the dimness of anguish and of darkness is dispelled. Heaven 
and earth are here opposed to one another, as sea and land are 
in ch. 5 : 30. Distress and darkness are here identified, as dis- 
tress and light are there contrasted. . 

23. This darkness is to be dispelled ; for (there shall) not 
(be) darkness (forever) to her who is now distressed (literally, to 
whom there is distress). The present calamity, or that just 
predicted, is not to be perpetual. The future state of things 
shall exhibit a strange contrast with the former. As the former 
time degraded the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, so 
the latter glorifies the way of the sea, the bank of the Jordan, 
Galilee of the Gentiles. The same region is described in both 
clauses, namely, the northern extremity of the land of Israel. 
This is designated, first, by the tribes which occupied it, then, 
by its relative position with respect to Jordan and the sea of 
Tiberias. This part of the country, from being the most de- 
graded and afflicted, should receive peculiar honour. Its de- 
basement and distress both arose from its remote and frontier 
situation, proximity to the heathen, intercourse and mixture 
with them, and constant exposure to the first attacks of enemies, 
who usually entered Canaan from the north. To the former 
of these reasons may be traced the expressions of contempt for 
Galilee recorded in the books of the New Testament (John 
1:46. 7:52. Matt. 26:69. Acts 1:11. 2:7). How this 
disgrace was to be exchanged for honour, is explained in the 
next verse. The sea mentioned in the last clause is not the 
Mediterranean but the sea of Galilee, as appears from Matt. 
4: 15, 16. The region spoken of was that along the Jordan 
(on one or both sides) near the sea of Galilee. 




The change for the better, which was promised at the eloas 
of the eighth chapter, is described in the ninth as consisting ii 
the rise of a great light upon the darkness, in the increase of 
the nation and their joy, excited by deliverance from bondagt 
and the universal prevalence of peace, arising from the advent 
of a divine successor to David, who should restore, establish, 
and enlarge his kingdom without any limitation, vs. 1-6. 

From the times of the Messiah, the Prophet suddenly revertf 
to his own, and again predicts the punishment of Ephraim by 
repeated strokes. The people had been warned both by met* 
sages from God and by experience, but had continued to in- 
dulge their proud self-confidence, in consequence of which God 
allowed the Assyrians, after overthrowing Bezin, to attack 
them also, while at the same time they were harassed by per- 
petual assaults from their hostile neighbours, vs. 7-11. 

Still they did not repent and return to God, who therefore 
cut off suddenly many of all classes, but especially the rulers 
of the nation and the false prophets, the flattering seducers of 
the wretched people, from whom he must now withhold even 
the ordinary proofs of his compassion, vs. 12-16. 

All this was the natural effect of sin, like a fire in a thicket, 
which at last consumes the forest, and involves the land in 
smoke and flame. Tet amidst these strokes of the divine dis- 
pleasure, they were still indulging mutual animosities and 
jealousies, insomuch that Israel was like a famished man devour 
ing his own flesh. Manasseh thus devoured Ephraim and 
Ephraim Manasseh, while the two together tried to devour 
Judah, vs. 17-20. 


It has been observed already that the division of the chap- 
ters is in this part of the book peculiarly unfortunate ; the 
first part of the ninth (vs. 1-6) containing the conclusion of 
the eighth, and the first part of the tenth (vs. 1-4) the con- 
clusion of the ninth. 

The numbers of the verses in this chapter differ in the He- 
brew and English Bibles ; what is the last verse of the eighth 
in the former is the first of the ninth in the latter. The ref- 
erences in the commentary are all to the divisions of the He- 
brew text. 

1. The people (just described, i. e. the people of Galilee), 
those walking in the dark (expressive both of spiritual blindness 
and extreme distress), have seen a great light (the change 
being presented to the Prophet's view as already past); the 
dwellers in the land of the shadow of death (i. e. of intense dark* 
Bess), light has beamed upon them. These words, in a general 
sense, may be descriptive of any great and Budden change in 
the condition of the people, especially of one from ignorance 
and misery to illumination and enjoyment. They are still 
more appropriate to Christ as the light of the world (John 
8 :12), a light to the nations (IsaL 42 : 6. 49 : 6), and the sun of 
righteousness (Mai. 4 : 2), which rose upon the world when he 
manifested forth his glory by his teachings and his miracles in 
Galilee (John 2:11). It was in this benighted and degraded 
region that he first appeared as a messenger from God ; and in 
that appearance we are expressly taught that this prediction 
was fulfilled (Matt. 4: 12-17). 

2. The Prophet now, by a sudden apostrophe, addresses God 
himself, who, by bestowing on the Galileans this great light, 
would not only honour them, but afford occasion of great joy 
to all the true Israel, including those who should be gathered 
from the gentiles Thou hast enlarged the nation (i. e. Israel in 


general), thou hast increased Us joy (literally, to it thou hast in- 
creased the joy) ; they rejoice before thee like the joy in harvest, 
as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. The increase of the 
nation+means the increase of the people in their own land, not 
a mere growth of population, but an increase of the true Israel 
by the calling of the gentiles. To the promise here given there 
is probably allusion in the language of the angel who announced 
the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2: 10): Behold, 1 
bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the 
people, i. e. to the whole nation, all the Israel of God. 

3. This verse assigns the reason or occasion of the promised 
joy. They shall rejoice before thee, that (or because) the yoke 
of his burden (his burdensome yoke), and the rod of his shoulder 
(or back) and the staff of the one driving him (his task-master, 
slave-driver) thou hast broken, like the day (as in the day) of 
Midian, as Gideon routed Midian, i. e. suddenly, totally, and 
by special aid from heaven. This promise was fulfilled in 
the glorious deliverance of the Galileans (the first converts 
to Christianity), and of all who with them made up the true 
Israel, from the heavy burden of the covenant of works, the 
galling yoke of the Mosaic law, the service of the devil, and the 
bondage of corruption. Outward deliverance is only promised, 
so far as it accompanied the spiritual change or was included 
in it. The day of any one in Hebrew often means the day in 
which something memorable happens to him, or is done by him 
(vide supra, ch. 2: 12) and in Arabic is absolutely used for a 
day of battle. The rout of the Midianites, recorded in the 
seventh chapter of Judges, is here referred to, because it was a 
wonderful display of divine power, without the use of any ade- 
quate human means — and also, because it took place in the same 
part of the country which this prophecy refers to. Jezreel, where 
the battle was fought ( Judg. 6 : 33), was in the territory of 
Manasseh, to which tribe Gideon himself belonged (Judg. 


6 : 15) ; but he was aided by the neighbouring tribes of Asher, 
Zebuion, and Naphtali ( Judg. 6 : 35). 

4. The destruction of the oppressing power shall be followed 
by profound and universal peace. To express this idea, the 
Prophet describes the equipments of the soldier as consumed 
with fire. For all the armour of the armed man (or the man-at- 
arms, who mingles) in the tumult (of battle), and the garment 
rolled in blood, shall be for burning (and for) food (or fuel) of 
fire. In other words, the usual accompaniments of battle shall 
be utterly destroyed, and by implication, war itself shall cease. 
It is not the weapons of the enemy alone, but all weapons of 
war, that are to be consumed ; not merely because they have 
been used for a bad purpose, but because they are hereafter to 
be useless. It is not so much a prophecy of conquest as of 
peace ; a peace however which is not to be expected till the 
enemies of God are overcome ; and therefore the prediction 
may be said to include both events, the final overthrow of all 
opposing powers and the subsequent prevalence of universal 
peace. This last is uniformly spoken of in Scripture as charac- 
teristic of Messiah's reign, both internal and external, in society 
at large and in the hearts of his people. With respect to the 
latter, the prediction has been verified with more or less dis- 
tinctness, in every case of true conversion. With respect to the 
former, its fulfilment is inchoate, but will one day be complete, 
when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and He 
who is the Prince of Peace shall have dominion from sea to sea, 
and from the river to the ends of the earth. An allusion to 
this promise and its final consummation may be found in the 
words of the heavenly host who celebrated the Saviour's birth 
(Luke 2 : 14), Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, 
good will to men. Fire is mentioned simply as a powerful con- 
suming agent, to express the abolition of the implements of 
war, and, as a necessary consequence, of war itself 


5. This verse gives a farther reason for the joy of the pee. 
pie, by bringing into view the person who was to effect the 
great deliverauce For a child is born to us (or for us, L e. for 
our benefit), a son is given to us (i. e. by Jehovah, an ex- 
pression frequently applied in the New Testament to Christ's 
incarnation), and the government is upon his shoulder (as a burden 
or a robe of office), and his name is called Wonderful (literally 
Wonder), Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of 
Peace. When it is said that his name should be so called, it 
does not mean that he should aotually bear these names ia 
real life, but merely that he should deserve them, and that they 
would be descriptive of his character. These words are strik- 
ingly appropriate to Jesus Christ, as the promised child, em- 
phatically born for us and given to us, as the Son of God and the 
Son of Man, as being wonderful in his person, works and suffer- 
ings ; a covnsellor, prophet, authoritative teacher of the truth, a 
wise administrator of the church, and confidential adviser of the 
individual believer — a real man, and yet the Mighty God; eter- 
nal in his own existence, and the giver of eternal life to others; 
the great 'peace-maker between God and man, between Jew and 
gentile, the umpire between nations, the abolisher of war, and 
the giver of internal peace to all who being justified by faith 
have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5 : 1). 

6. The reign of this king shall be progressive and perpetual, 
because founded in justice and secured by the distinguishing 
favour of Jehovah. To the increase of the government (or power) 
and to the peace (or prosperity of this reign) there shall be no end, 
upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to establish it and 
to confirm it, injustice and in righteousness, from henceforth and 
forever, the zeal of Jehovah of Hosts shall do this. A striking 
parallel is furnished by the prophecy in Micah 5 : 2-4. There, as 
here, a king is promised who should be the son of David, and 
should reign over all the earth in peace and righteousness 


forever. It is there expressed, and here implied, that this king 
should re-unite the divided house of Israel although this is but 
a small part of the increase promised, which includes the calling 
of the gentiles also. Peace here denotes not only peace as 
opposed to war, intestine strife, or turbulence, but welfare and 
prosperity in general as opposed to want and sorrow. The 
reign here predicted was to be not only peaceful but in every 
respect prosperous. And this prosperity, like the reign of 
which it is predicted, is to have no limit either temporal or 
local. It is to be both universal and eternal. There is nothing 
to preclude the very widest explanation of the terms employed. 
The endless increase of power and prosperity on the throne of 
David means of course that the Prince, whose reign was to be 
thus powerful and prosperous, would be a descendant of David. 
This is indeed a repetition and explanation of a promise given 
to David (2 Sam. 7:11-16. 1 Kings 8:25) and repeatedly 
referred to by him (2 Sam. 23 : 1-5. Ps. 2, 45, 72, 89, 132). 
Hence the Messiah is not only ealled the Branch or Son of 
David (2 Sam. 7 : 12, 13. Jer. 23 : 5. 33 : 15), but David him- 
self ( Jer. 30 : 9. Ezek. 34 : 23, 24. 37 : 24. Hos. 3 : 5). The two 
reigns are identified, not merely on account of an external 
resemblance or a typical relation, but because the one was really 
a restoration or continuation of the other. Both kings were heads 
of the same body, the one a temporal head, the other spiritual, the 
one temporary, the other eternal. The Jewish nation, as a spirit- 
ual body, is really continued in the Christian church. The sub- 
ject of the prophecy is the reign of the Messiah ; the effect predict- 
ed, its stability and increase ; the means to be employed, judg. 
ment and justice ; the efficient cause, the zeal of Jehovah. 
The justice spoken of is that of the Messiah and his subjects. 
All the acts of his administration will be righteous, and the 
effect of this upon his people will be righteousness on their part, 
and this prevalence of righteousness will naturally generate the 
increase and stability here promised. The word translated zeal 


expresses the complex idea of strong affection comprehending 
or attended by a jealous preference of one above another. It is 
used in the Old Testament to signify not only God's intense 
love for his people but his jealousy in their behalf, that is to say, 
his disposition to protect and favour them at the expense of 
others. Sometimes, moreover, it includes the idea of a jealous 
care of his own honour, or a readiness to take offence at any 
thing opposed to it, and a determination to avenge it when 
insulted. The expressions are derived from the dialect of 
human passion, but describe something absolutely right on Ghxft 
part for the very reasons which demonstrate its absurdity and 
wickedness on man's. These two ideas of God's jealous par- 
tiality for his own people, and his jealous sensibility respecting 
his own honour, are promiscuously blended in the usage of the 
word, and are perhaps both included in the case before us. 
Both for his own sake and his people's, he would bring these 
events to pass. Or rather the two motives are identical, that 
is to say, the one includes the other. The welfare of the church 
is only to be sought so far as it promotes God's glory, and a 
zeal which makes the glory of the church an object to be aimed 
at for its own sake, cannot be a zeal for God, or is at best a zeal 
for God but not according to knowledge. The mention of God's 
jealousy or zeal as the procuring cause of this result affords a 
sure foundation for the hopes of all believers. His zeal is not 
a passion but a principle of powerful and certain operation. 
The astonishing effect produced by feeble means in the promo- 
tion, preservation, and extension of Christ's kingdom, can only 
be explained upon the principle that the zeal of the Lord of 
Hosts effected it. The expressions of the verse before us were 
applied to Christ, before his birth, by Gabriel, when he said to 
Mary (Luke 1 : 32-34), He shall be great, and shall be called the 
Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the 
throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of 
Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 


7. Having repeatedly interchanged the three great subjects 
of this prophecy, the deliverance of Judah from the power of 
Syria and Israel, its subsequent punishment by means of the 
Assyrians, and the reign of the Messiah, for whose sake the 
kingdom was to be preserved, the Prophet passes here abruptly 
from the last to the first, and again predicts the punishment of 
Ephraim. He reverts to this event, which had already been 
repeatedly foretold, for the purpose of declaring that the blows 
would be repeated as often and as long as might be needed for 
the absolute fulfilment of God's threatenings. He begins by 
showing that Israel had already been sufficiently forewarned. 
The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it came down into Israel, 
The two names of the patriarch are nere used as equivalents, 
denoting his descendants, and especially the larger part, the 
kingdom of the ten tribes, to which the national name Israel 
is wont to be distinctively applied. 

8. The word which God had sent had reaehed the people ; 
they had heard and understood it, but continued to indulge 
their pride and self-security. And they know (the divine threat- 
ening), the people, all of them (literally all of it, the noun being 
singular but used collectively), Ephraim and the inhabitants of 
Samaria (a limitation of the general terms preceding, so as to 
prevent their application to Judah). in pride and in greatness of 
heart (an equivalent expression), saying (the words recorded in 
the next verse). 

9. The very words of the self-confident Ephraim ites are now 
recorded. Instead of being warned and instructed by what 
they had already suffered, they presumptuously look for greater 
prosperity than ever. Bricks are fallen, and hewn stone will we 
build ;■ sycamores are felled, and ced*§s will we substitute. The 
oriental bricks are unburn t, so that most of their brick struc- 
tures are as little durable as mud w,alls. The sycamore is 


durable, but too light and spongy to be used in solid building. 
The latter is accordingly contrasted with the cedar, and the 
former with hewn stone, the two most highly valued building 
materials. This verse is a metaphorical description of a change 
from worse to better, by a substitution of the preoiouB for the 
vile. Bricks and sycamores are proverbial expressions for 
that which is inferior, and cedars and hewn stone for that which 
is superior. An illustrative parallel is found in ch. 60 : 17, 
where the same general idea is expressed by the exchange 
of stones for iron, iron for silver, wood for brass, brass for 
gold, of course without allusion to a litoral exchange or mu- 
tual substitution. 

10. Here begins a second stage in the progress of God's 
judgments. He had sent a warning prophecy before (v. 7), and 
they had been taught its meaning by experience (v. 8), but 
without effect upon their proud self-confidence. And (now) 
Jehovah raises tip above him (i. e. Ephraim) the (victorious) 
enemies of Rezin (his late ally), and (besides these) he will insti- 
gate his own (accustomed) enemies (to wit, those mentioned in 
the next verse). They who were to conquer Israel are called 
the enemies of Rezin, to remind the Israelites of their alliance 
with him, and to intimate that they who had so lately con- 
quered Syria were soon to conquer Israel. 

11. This verse contains a more particular description of 
Ephraim's otcn enemies who were to be stirred up against him, 
with a declaration that this was not to be the end of the inflic- 
tion. Aram (or Syria in the widest sense) before, and Philistia 
(or the Philistines) behind, and they devour Israel with open 
mouth (i. e. ravenously). For all this (or notwithstanding all 
this) his wrath does not torn back (from the pursuit or the 
attack), and still his hand is stretched out. On the meaning of 
this last clause, see above, ch. 5 : 25. The Syrians and Philis- 


tines are supposed by some to be referred to, as forming part 
of the Assyrian army. The reference may however be to sepa- 
rate attacks from these two powers. Before and behind may 
simply mean on opposite sides, or more specifically to the east 
and west, which are often thus described in Hebrew. 

12. These continued and repeated strokes are still without 
effect in bringing the people to repentance. And the people 
has not turned to him that smote them, and Jehovah of Hosts they 
have not sought. Sin is described in Scripture as departure 
from God. Repentance, therefore, is returning to him. To seek 
God, in the idiom of Scripture, is to pray to him (Isai 55 : 6), 
to consult him (Isai 8 : 19), to resort to him for help (I sal 
31 : 1), to hold communion with him (Amos 5 : 4, 5). Hence it 
is sometimes descriptive of a godly life in general (Psalm 14:2). 
So here it includes repentance, conversion, and new obedi- 
ence. This verse does not assign the reason of the fact re- 
corded in the one preceding, but continues the description. 
God went on punishing, and the people went on sinning. 

13. The next stroke mentioned is a sudden destruction 
among all ranks of the people, the extremes being designated 
by two figures drawn from the animal and vegetable world. 
And Jehovah has cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and 
rush, in one day. The allusion here is to a branch of the palm- 
tree or the tree itself. This tree, though now rare in the Holy 
Land, abounded there of old, especially in the southern part, 
where several places were named after it (Deut 34 : 3. 
2 Chron. 20 : 2). Hence it appears on Roman coins as the 
symbol of Judea. It is highly esteemed in the east, both for 
beauty and utility. Its branches grow near the top of its lofty 
trunk and bend towards the ground, as its leaves do also, with 
a gentle curvature, resembling that of a hand partly closed, 
from which peculiarity the Hebrew name and the Latin palma 


■eem to be derived. Palm and rush denote that which if 
superior and inferior, including every class in the community. 

14. To the descriptive figures of the preceding verse, the 
Prophet now adds a specific application of the first Jehovah 
had cut off from Israel, not only in a general sense the upper 
and lower classes of society, but in a more restricted sense the 
wicked rulers, who were the corrupt head of the body politic, 
and the false prophets who, as their abject adherents, and on 
account of their hypocrisy and false pretensions to divine 
authority, must be regarded as its ta il, because contemptible 
and odious, even in comparison with other wicked men, who 
laid no claim to a religious character. The elder and the favour- 
ite (or honourable person), he (is) the head, and the prophet teaching 
falsehood, he (is) the tail. The teaching of falsehood means teach- 
ing in the name of God what he has not revealed. The false 
prophets are called the tail, because the false prophets were 
morally the basest of the people, and because they were the 
servile adherents and supporters of the wicked rulers. With 
respect both to the head which they followed, and the body of 
which they were the vilest part, they might be justly called the 

15. This verse gives a reason, not why all classes were to be 
destroyed, but why the rulers and false prophets had been spe- 
cially mentioned. It arises, therefore, naturally out of the 
fourteenth, and thus incidentally proves it to be genuine. The 
truth expressed and implied is, that the leaders of the people 
had destroyed them and should perish with them. The leaders 
of this people have been seducers, and those led by them (are) swal- 
lowed up (or ruined). 

16. Therefore (because the people are thus incorrigibly im- 
penitent) the Lord will not rejoice over their young men (literally 


chosen ones, i. e. for military service, the word being nsed in the 
general sense of youths, but seldom without reference to war), 
and on their orphans and their widows (elsewhere represented as 
peculiarly the objects of God's care) he will not have mercy (ex- 
pressing in the strongest form the extent and severity of the 
threatened judgments) ; for every one of them (literally of it, re- j 
f erring to the singular noun people) is profane (or impious) and 
an evil doer, and every mouth (is) speaking folly (in the strong 
Hebrew sense of wickedness). For all this his wrath is not 
turned back, and still is his hand outstretched. 

17. This verse assigns a reason why God's hand is still 
stretched out for the destruction of his people, by describing 
that destruction as the natural effect of their own wickedness, 
here likened to a fire beginning near the ground among the 
thorns and briers, then extending to the undergrowth or brush- 
wood of the forest, which, as it consumes away, ascends in a . 
volume of smoke. For wickedness burneth as the fire, thorns and 
briers it consumes, then kindles in the thickets of the forest, and 
they roll themselves upwards, a column (literally, an ascent) of 
smoke. Thorns and briers are often used as emblems of the 
wicked (Mic. 7 : 4. Nah. 1:10. 2 Sam. 23 : 6), and their burn- 
ing as a figure for the punishment of sinners (Isai. 33 : 12. Ps. 
118 : 12. 2 Sam. 23 : 7), especially by means of foreign enemies 
(Isai. 10 : 17. 32 : 1«). 

18. The figure of a general conflagration is continued in this 
verse, and then exchanged for a literal description of the miser- 
ies produced by civil war. In the wrath of Jehovah of Hosts, 
the land is darkened (with the smoke, or heated by the flame) 
and the people is like food (or fuel) of fire ; one another (literally, 
man his brother) they do not spare. 

19. The horrors of civil war are now presented under the 


fearful image of insatiable hunger, leading men to devour their 
own flesh. And he tears on the right hand and is hungry (still), 
and devours on the left and (still) they are not satisfied ; each the 
flesh of his (own) arm, they aevour. The words right and lift 
simply denote that the devouring should be mutual and extend 
in all directions. The special mention of the arm may imply 
that the mutual destroyers ought to have been mutual pro- 

20. The application of the figures in v. 19 is now made plain . 
by the Prophet himself, who has been drawing no imaginary 
scene. It is Israel, the chosen race, that feeds on its own flesh. 
They devour each the flesh of his own arm — Manasseh (devours) 
Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh — and together they (are) 
against Judah. For all this his wrath is not turned back and 
still his hand (is) stretched out. The tribes here specified are 
chosen for two reasons : first, because Judah and Joseph were 
the most important branches of the stock of Israel, as well be- 
fore as after the disruption ; and secondly, because the tribes of 
Ephraim and Manasseh were more nearly related to each other 
than to any of the rest, and therefore their hostility afforded 
the most striking illustration of the mutual rancour which the 
Prophet had described as prevalent. Together implies unity of 
time, place, and action. Not only is it common for intestine 
wars to give occasion and give place to foreign ones, but this 
clause really continues the description and adds greatly to its 
force, by suggesting the idea that the mutual enmity of these 
two kindred tribes could only be exceeded by their common 
hatred to their common relative, the tribe of Judah. The allu- 
sions of the verse are not to one exclusive period, but to a pro- 
tracted series of events. The intestine strifes of Ephraim and 
Manasseh, although not recorded in detail, may be inferred 
from various incidental statements. Of their ancient rivalry we 
have examples in the history of Gideon (Judges 9 : 1-3) and 


Jephtba (Judges 12 : 1-6) ; and as to later times, it has been ob- 
served that of all who succeeded Jeroboam the Second on the 
throne of Israel, Pekahiah alone aj^ears to have attained it with- 
out treachery or bloodshed. That Manasseh and Ephraim were 
both against Judah, may refer either to their constant enmity 
or to particular attacks. No sooner did one party gain the 
upper hand in the kingdom of the ten tribes, than it seems to 
have addressed itself to the favourite work of harassing or con- 
quering Judah, as in the case of Pekah, who invaded it almost 
as soon as he had waded to the throne through the blood of 
Pekahiah. The repetition in the last clause intimates that 
even these extreme evils should be followed by still worse ; 
that these were but the beginning of sorrows ; that the end was 
not yet 


The Prophet first completes his description of the prevalent 
iniquity, with special reference to injustice and oppression, as 
a punishment of which he threatens death and deportation 
by the hands of the Assyrians, vs. 1-4. He then turns to the 
Assyrians themselves, God's chosen instruments, whom he 
had commissioned against Israel, to punish and degrade it, 
but whose own views were directed to universal conquest, to 
illustrate which the Assyrian himself is introduced as boasting 
of his tributary princes and his rapid conquests, which had met 
with no resistance from the people or their gods, and threaten- 
ing Judah with a like fate, unaware of the destruction which 
awaits himself, imputing his success to his own strength and 
wisdom, and glorying, though a mere created instrument, over 
his maker and his mover, vs. 5-15. His approaching doom is 


then described under the figure of a forest suddenly and al- 
most totally consumed by fire, vs. 16-19. This succession of 
events is to have the effect ^ curing the propensity to trust in 
man rather than God, at least among the elect remnant who 
survive; for though the ancient promises of great increase 
shall certainly be verified, only a remnant shall escape God's 
righteous judgments, vs. 20-23. To these the Prophet now 
addresses words of strong encouragement, with a renewed pre- 
diction of a judgment on Assyria similar to that on Midian at 
Oreb and on Egypt at the Bed Sea, which is then described, in 
the most vivid manner, by an exhibition of the enemy's ap- 
proach, from post to post, until he stands before Jerusalem, 
and then, with a resumption of the metaphor before used, his 
destruction is described as the prostration of a forest — trees 
and thickets — by a mighty axe, vs. 24-34. 

1. In these four verses, as in the different divisions of the 
ninth chapter, there is an accusation followed by a threatening 
of punishment. The sin denounced in the first two verses is 
that of oppression and injustice. The punishment threatened 
is desolation by a foreign foe, and its effect, captivity and 
death. Woe unto them that decree decrees of injustice, and thai 
write oppression which they have prescribed. The metaphor of 
writing is used elsewhere to describe the decrees and providen- 
tial purposes of God (Isai. 65 : 6 Job 13 : 26). Here the 
terms may include both legislative and judicial functions, which 
are not so nicely distinguished in ancient as in modern theories 
of government. The divine displeasure is expressed against 
all abuse of power. 

2. As the first verse describes the sinners and their sin, so 
the second sets forth its effect upon the people. To turn aside 
(or exclude) from judgment the weak, and to take away (by vio- 
lence) the right ofthepoor (or afflicted) of my people, thai widows 


may be (or so tbat widows are) their spoil, and the fatherless they 
plunder. The infinitive indicates the tendency and actnal effect 
of their conduct The phrase here used is to turn one aside 
from the judgment, and seems intended to express not so much 
the idea of judging wrongfully as that of refusing to judge at 
all. The same charge is brought against the rulers of Judah 
in ch. 1 : 23. The expression of my people intimates, not only 
that the sufferers were Israelites, but that they sustained a pe- 
culiar relation to Jehovah, who is frequently described in 
Scripture as the protector of the helpless, and especially of 
widows and orphans (Ps. 68 : 5). 

3. The wicked rulers are themselves addressed, and warned 
of an approaching crisis, when they must be deprived of all 
that they now glory in. And (though you are now powerful and 
rich) what will, ye do in the day of visitation, and in the ruin 
(which) shall come from far (though all may appear safe at 
home)? To whom will ye fke for help, and where will ye leave 
your glory (for safe-keeping) ? The questions imply negation, 
as if he had said, you can do nothing to protect yourselves, 
there is no place of concealment for your glory. According to 
the usage of the Old Testament, the day of visitation is a time 
when God manifests his presence specially, whether in mercy 
or in wrath, but most frequently the latter. The word trans- 
lated ruin originally signifies a noise or tumult, and is there- 
fore peculiarly appropriate to the ruin caused by foreign inva- 
sions, such as those of the Assyrians and Babylonians, which 
appear to be alluded to. By glory we are to understand what- 
ever they now boasted of and trusted in. 

4. It (your glory) does not bow beneath the prisoners, and (yet) 
they shall fall beneath the slain — i. e. if they do not bow under 
the captives they shall fall under the slain— or, such of them as 
do not bow, etc. Beneath may either be strictly understood aa 



meaning under their feet, or simply among them. The most 
natural interpretation of this difficult and much disputed verse 
is that which explains it as a solemn declaration that their 
glory and especially their noble chiefs must either go into cap- 
tivity or fall in battle. The concluding formula {for all this 
his wrath is not turned back and still his hand is stretched out) 
again suggests the fearful thought that all these accumulated 
judgments would be insufficient to arrest the progress of the 
sinner or appease the wrath of God. 

5. The Assyrian is now distinctly brought into view, as the 
instrument which God would use in punishing his people. But 
instead of simply executing this task, the Assyrians would seek 
their own ends and exceed their commission, and for this they 
must themselves be punished. The Prophet begins therefore 
with a woe against them. Woe unto Asshur (the Assyrian or 
Assyria itself), the rod of my anger, and the staff in their (the 
Assyrians') hand is my indignation, i. e. its instrument. 

6. Upon (or against) an impious nation (i. e. Israel, including 
Ephraim and Judah) will I send him (the Assyrian), and 
against the people of my wrath (i. e. the people that provokes it 
and deserves it and is to experience it) / will commission him 
(or give him his orders), to take spoil and to seize prey (literally 
to spoil spoil and to prey prey), and to place (or render) it (the 
people) a trampling (a thing to be trodden under foot, a com- 
mon figure for extreme degradation) like the mire of streets. See 
the same comparison in ch. 5 : 25 and Ps. 18 : 42. 

7. The Assyrian is now described as an unconscious instru- 
ment in God's hand, and as entertaining in his own mind no- 
thing but ambitious plans of universal conquest And he (As- 
syria personified, or the king of Assyria) not so will think (will 
not imagine for what purpose he was raised up, or will not in- 


tend to execute my will), and his heart not so will think (or pur- 
pose) ; for (on the contrary) to destroy (is) in his heart ; and to cut 
of nations not a few, i. e. very many nations. 

8. This verse introduces the proof and illustration of his 
selfishness and pride. For he will say (or giving it a descrip- 
tive form, he says) are not my princes altogether kings, or at the 
same time kings, mere princes with respect to me, but kings as to 
all the world besides 1 By exalting his tributary princes or the 
nobles of his court, he magnifies himself the more. The orien- 
tal monarchs, both in ancient and modern times, have affected 
the title of Great King (Isai. 36 : 4. Hos. 8:10) and King of 
kings (Ezek. 26 : 7. Dan. 2 : 37). 

9. Having boasted of his princes, he now boasts of his achieve- 
ments. Is not Calno like Carchemish ? Have they not been 
equally subdued by me ? Or (is) not Hamath like Arpad 7 Or 
(is) not Samaria, like Damascus ? Similar boastings were uttered 
by Rabshakeh (ch. 36 : 19, 20. 37 : 12, 13). These conquests 
were the more remarkable because so speedily achieved, and be- 
cause the Assyrians had before confined themselves within their 
own limits All the towns named were further north than Je- 
rusalem, and probably commanded the navigation of the two 
great rivers, Tigris and Euphrates. Carchemish was a fortified 
town on an island in the Euphrates, at the mouth of the Cha- 
boras, called by the Greeks Kioxfoio*, and in Latin Cercusium. 
It had its own king (Isai. 37 : 13) and its own gods (Isai. 
36 : 19), and was taken by Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15 : 29). 
Calno was the Clesiphon of the Greeks, on the east bank of the 
Tigris, opposite Seleucia. Hamath was a city of Syria, on the 
Orontes, the mouth of which river, according to Keith (Land of 
Israel, ch. 2. § 3), is the entering into Hamath, sometimes men- 
tioned as the northern boundary of Canaan in its widest extent 
(Num. 34 : 8. Josh. 13:5). It was also by the Greeks Epiphar 


nia. Abulfeda, the Arabian historian, reigned there about ike 
beginning of the fourteenth century. It is now one of the 
largest towns in Asiatic Turkey, having about 100,000 inhabi- 
tants. Arpadj another town of Syria, near Hamath, with which 
it is several times named. It is mentioned last in Jer. 49 : 23, 
and is probably no longer in existence. 

10. As my hand hath found (i. e reached and seized) the idol' 
kingdoms (worshippers of idols) — and their images (L e. whose 
images were more) than (those of) Jerusalem and Samaria-— the 
apodosis of the sentence follows in the next verse. 

1 1. Shall I not, as I have done to Samaria and to her idols, » 
do to Jerusalem and her gods ? The interrogative particle, 
which properly belongs to the second verb, is placed at the be- 
ginning of the sentence, in order to give prominence to its in- 
terrogative form, which involves an affirmation. 

12. To the boastful speech of the Assyrian succeeds a pre- 
diction of his fate. Although he had been suffered to proceed 
so far, and would be suffered to proceed still further in the work 
of subjugation, till he reached the very verge of Zion and the 
portals of Jerusalem, God had determined that the work should 
go no further, but be there cut short by the infliction of a 
signal vengeance on the selfishness and pride of the invader. 
And it shall be (i. e. the end of all this glorying shall be) thai 
the JLord will cut his work short at Mount Zion and at Jerusa- 
lem. (Yes, even there) will I visit (i. e. manifest my presence 
for the purpose of inflicting punishment) on the fruit (or out- 
ward exhibition) of the greatness of heart (i. e. arrogance and 
pride) of the king of Assyria, and on the ostentation (or display) 
of his loftiness of eyes (or looks, a common scriptural expression 
for great haughtiness). His work may mean the Assyrian 1 ! 
work of conquest, or the Lord's own work of punishment! in 


reference either to Assyria or Israel. Either of these senses 
may be preferred without effect upon the meaning of the sen- 
teuce. By the destruction of Sennacherib's army, God may be 
said to have cut short the work of that invader, or to have cut 
short his own work by accomplishing his purpose of destruction, 
or to have cut short his own work of punishing his people, by 
relieving them from danger. 

13. The Assyrian is again introduced as speaking, and as 
arrogating to himself the two most necessary qualities of a 
successful ruler, energy and wisdom, military prowess and 
political sagacity. The last clause gives the proofs of the asser- 
tion m the first, and mentions three things which the boaster 
had disposed of at his pleasure, political arrangements, money, 
and men. For he saitk (in heart and life, if not in words), 
by the strength of my (own) hand I have done (all this), and by 
my (own) wisdom, for 1 am wise (as well as strong), and (in the 
exercise of these two attributes) / remove the bounds of the na- 
tions, and rob their hoards, and bring down, like a mighty man 
(as I am), the inhabitants. By removing the bounds is to be 
understood destroying the distinctions between nations by in- 
corporation in a single empire. 

14. The rapidity and ease of the Assyrian conquests are ex* 
pressed by a natural and beautiful comparison. In seizing on 
the riches of the nations, the conqueror had encouutered no 
more difficulty than if he had been merely taking eggs from a 
forsaken nest, without even the impotent resistance which the 
bird, if present, might have offered, by its cries and by the 
flapping of its wings. My hand has found (i. e. reached and 
seized) the strength (or more specifically, the pecuniary strength, 
the wealth) of the nations, and like the gathering of (or as one 
gathers) eggs forsaken, so have I gathered all the earth (i. e. all 
its inhabitants and their possessions), and there was none thai 


moved a wing, or opened a mouth, or chirped. The word fteped 
used in the English version is not only obsolete but liable to 1m 
confounded with another of the same form. 

15. Yet in all this the Assyrian was bat an instrument in 
God's hands, and his proud self-confidence is therefore as ab- 
surd as if an axe or a saw or a rod or a staff should exalt itself 
above the person wielding it. Shall the axe glorify itself abom 
the (person) hewing with it 1 Or shall the saw magnify itself above 
the (person) handling it? (This is indeed) like a rod's wielding 
those who wield it, like a staff's lifting (that which is) no wood 
(but a man). The idea is not merely that of boastful opposi- 
tion but of preposterous inversion of the true relation between 
agent and instrument, between mind and matter. The last 
clause of this verse has not only been very variously explained 
by modern writers, but given great difficulty to the old tranr 
lators, as appears from the inconsistent and unmeaning ver- 
sions of it. 

16. Therefore (on account of this impious self-confidence) the 
Lord, the Lord of Hosts, will send upon his fat ones leanness, and 
under his glory shall burn a burning like the burning of fire. The 
accumulation of divine names calls attention to the source of the 
threatened evil, and reminds the Assyrian that Jehovah is the 
only rightful Sovereign and the God of battles. The sending 
of leanness upon them seems to be a figure for the reduction 
of their strength, with or without allusion to the health of in- 
dividuals. Some suppose an exclusive reference to the slaugh- 
ter of Sennacherib's army, others a more general one to the 
decline of the Assyrian power. Both are probably included, 
the first as one of the most striking indications of the last 
By glory we are to understand magnificence and greatness in 
the general, civil and military, moral and material The last 


clause is a lively figure for the suddenness, completeness, and 
rapidity of the destruction. 

J 7. And the Light of Israel shall be for afire (i. e. shall become 
one, or shall act as one), and his Holy One for aflame, and it 
shall burn and devour his (the Assyrian's) thorns and briers in 
one day (i e. in a very short time). The Light of Israel is no 
doubt intended # as an epithet of God himself, so called because 
he enlightened Israel by his Word and Spirit, and cheered 
them by the light of his countenance. There may be an allu- 
sion to the pillar of the cloud, and some think to the angel of 
God's presence who was in it. The thorns and the briers are 
explained by most interpreters as a figure for the whole body, 
either in allusion to their pointed weapons or to the malice and 
vexation of the Jews, or to their combustible nature and fitness 
for the fire. Here, as in the foregoing verse, fire is mention- 
ed as a rapid and powerful consuming agent, without express 
allusion to the manner or the means of the destruction threat- 

18. And the glory (i. e. beauty) of his (the Assyrian's) forest 
and his fruitful field, from soul to body (i. e. totally), will he (the 
Lord) consume , and it shall be like the wasting away of a sick 
man. The Prophet meant to represent the greatness of Assy- 
ria under figures borrowed from the vegetable world, and for 
that purpose uses terms descriptive of the most impressive as- 
pects under which a fruitful land presents itself, forests and 
harvest-fields, the two together making a complete picture, with- 
out the necessity of giving to each part a distinctive import. The 
forest and the fruitful field, here applied to Assyria, are applied by 
Sennacherib himself to Israel (ch. 37 : 24). As the terms soul 
and flesh are strictly inapplicable to the trees and fields, we must 
either suppose that the Prophet here discards his metaphor, 
and goes on to speak of the Assyrians as men, or that the 


phrase is a proverbial one, meaning body and soul, i. e. alto-. 
gether, and is here applied without regard to the primary im- 
port of the terms, or their agreement with the foregoing figures. 
The various ways in which the last clause is explained may 
serve to show how difficult and doubtful it has seemed to all 
interpreters, ancient and modern. 

19. And the rest (or remnant) of the trees of his forest shall be 
jew, and a child shall write them, L e. make a list or catalogue, 
and by implication number them. 

20. And it shall be (or come to pass) in that day (that is, 
after these events have taken place), that the remnant of Israel, 

•and the escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no longer add (i. e. con- 
tinue) to lean upon their smiter (him that smote them), but shall 
lean upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. There is 
here an allusion to the circumstances which gave rise to this 
"whole prophecy. Ahaz, renouncing his dependence upon God, 
had sought the aid of Assyria, which secured his deliverance 
from present danger, but subjected the kingdom to worse evils 
from the very power to which they had resorted. But even 
these oppressions were to have an end in the destruction of the 
hostile power ; and when this should take place, Judah, now 
instructed by experience, would no longer trust in tyrants but 
sincerely in Jehovah. The reference is not to a sudden and 
immediate effect, but to a gradual result of the divine dispensa- 
tions, so that what is here predicted, though it began to be ful- 
filled from the time of that catastrophe, did not receive its final 
consummation before Christ's appearance. On this supposi- 
tion, we are better able to explain the remnant of Israel, as 
meaning not merely those left in Judah after the carrying away 
of the ten tribes — nor the Jews themselves who should outlive 
the Assyrian oppressions, and to whom the same phrase is ap- 
plied 2 Kings 19 : 4, 31. 21 : 14— nor merely the Jews who 


should return from the Babylonish exile, and to whom it is ap- 
plied Hagg. 1 : 12. Zech. 8 : 6 — nor merely the spiritual Israel, 
the remnant according to the election of grace, Rom. 1 1 : 5 — but 
all these at onco, or rather in succession, should be taught the 
lesson of exclusive reliance upon God, by his judgments on 
his enemies. The verb stay used in the English Version is 
equivocal, like peep in v. 14, because now employed chiefly in 
another sense. The idea expressed by the Hebrew word is 
simply that of leaning for support. The phrase in truth means 
that they should trust God in sincerity, as opposed to a mere 
hypocritical profession, and with constancy, as opposed to capri- 
cious vacillation. 

21. A remnant shall return, a remnant of Jacob, to God Al- 
mighty. There is an obvious allusion in these words to the 
name of the Prophet's son Shear-jashvb, mentioned in ch. 7 : 3. 
As the people were probably familiar with this name, its intro- 
duction here would be the more significant. The remnant of 
Jacob means those who should survive God's judgments threat- 
ened in this prophecy, not merely the Assyrian invasion or 
the Babylonish exile, but the whole series of remarkable events, 
.by which the history of the chosen people would be marked, 
including the destruction and dispersion of the nation by the 
Romans. The return here spoken of is one that was to take 
place at various times and in various circumstances. Under 
the old dispensation, the prophecy was verified in the conver- 
sion of idolatrous Jews to the worship of Jehovah, or of wicked 
Jews to a godly life, by means of their afflictions ; under the 
new, in the admission of believing Jews to the Christian 
church, and prospectively in the general conversion of Israel 
to God, which is yet to be expected. 

22. The Prophet now explains the use of the word remnant, 
and shows that the threatening which it involves is not inoon* 



sistent with the ancient promises. For though thy people, oh 
Israel (or Jacob), shall be like the sand of the sea (in multitude), 
(only) a remnant of them shall return. A consumption is decreed, 
overflowing (with) righteousness. The first clause relates to a 
certain event, but one still future {though thy people shall he or 
is to be). There seems, as Calvin says, to be allusion to the 
promises given to the Patriarchs (e. g. Gen. 13 : 16. 22 : 17), 
and repeated by the Prophets (e. g. Hos. 1 : 10), the fulfilment 
of which might have seemed to be precluded by the threatening 
in v. 21 ; to prevent which false conclusion, Isaiah here repeats 
the threatening with the promise, ' though thy people shall in- 
deed be numerous, yet 1 etc. The name Israel may be under- 
stood as that of the nation ; but there is more force in the lan- 
guage if we suppose an apostrophe to Israel or Jacob as the 
common ancestor, thus keeping up a distinct allusion to the 
ancient promises. Thy people will then mean thy posterity, 
not the ten tribes exclusively, nor Judah exclusively, but the 
whole race without distinction. The return predicted is not 
merely that from the Babylonish exile, but a return to God 
by true repentance and conversion as the only means of sal- 
vation. That a remnant only should escape, implies of course 
a general destruction, which is positively foretold in the last 

23. This verse contains a further explanation. For a con- 
sumption, even (the one) determined, (is) the Lord, Jehovah of Hosts, 
making (or about to make) in the midst of all the earth. This 
verse and the one before it are quoted by Paul (Rom. 9 : 27, 28) 
to show that the Jews, as such, were not the heirs of the prom- 
ise, which was intended for the remnant according to the 
election of grace. 

24. The logical connection of this verse is not with that im- 
mediately preceding, but with v. 19. Having there declared 


the fate impending over the Assyrian, the Prophet, as it were, 
turned aside to describe the effect of their destruction on the 
remnant of Israel, and now, having done so, he resumes the 
thread of his discourse, as if there had been no interruption. 
Therefore (since this is soon to be the fate of the Assyrians) be 
not afraid, oh my people inhabiting Zion, of Asshur (or the As- 
syrian). He shall smite thee (it is true) with the rod, and shall 
lift up his staff upon (or over) thee in the way of Egypt. As 
Zion was the seat of the true religion, and the people of God 
are often said to inhabit Zion, not in a local but a spiritual 
sense, most interpreters understand the object Of address to be 
Israel in general, while some restrict it to the pious and be- 
lieving Jews, the remnant of Israel, who were now to be con- 
soled and reassured amidst the judgments which were coming 
on the nation. The last words, in the way of Egypt, are am* 
biguous, and admit of two distinct interpretations. Some early 
writers, quoted by Calvin, make the phrase to mean, on the way 
to (or from) Egypt, in allusion to the fact, that Sennacherib 
attacked Judea in the course of an expedition against Egypt. 
The weight of exegetical authority preponderates in favour of 
a figurative exposition, making in the way synonymous with 
in the manner, after the example, as in Amos 4 : 10. The sense 
will then be this : ( Assyria shall oppress thee as Egypt did 

25. This verse assigns a reason for the exhortation not to 
fear in v. 24. For yet a very little, and wrath is at an end, and 
my anger (shall go forth or tend) to their destruction, i. e. the 
destruction of the enemy. The first clause may have reference 
to that destruction also, or to the restoration of God's people 
to his favour. 

26. The suddenness and completeness of the ruin threatened 
are expressed by a comparison with two remarkable events in 


■acred history, the slaughter of the Midianites by Gideon, ant) 
the overthrow of Pharaoh in the Bed Sea. And Jehovah <f 
Host* shall raise up against him (the Assyrian) a scourge (or in-, 
strument of vengeance), like the smiling of Midian at the rock 
Ortb, and his rod (Jehovah's) shall again be over the sea, and he 
shall lift it up (again) as he did in Egypt (literally, in the way 
of Egypt, as in v. 24). The rock Oreb is particularly men- 
tioned because one of the Midianitish princes, who had escaped 
from the field of battle, was there slain by Gideon ; and go 
Sennacherib, although he should survive the slaughter of his 
host, was to be slain at home (ch. 37 : 38). In the last clause 
there is a beautiful allusion to v. 24. As the Assyrians lifted 
up the rod over Israel in the manner of Egypt, so God would 
lift up the rod over them in the manner of Egypt. As they 
were like the Egyptians in their sin, so should they now be 
like them in their punishment. The construction of the last 
clause in the English Bible — and (as) his rod was upon the sea, 
(so) shall he lift it up etc. — puts an arbitrary meaning on the 
particles. According to the first construction given, his rod 
(shall be again) upon the sea is a poetical expression for ' his 
power shall again be miraculously displayed. 1 

27. And it shall be (happen or come to pass) in that day 
(when this prediction is fulfilled) that his burden (the burden 
imposed by him. the heavy load of Assyrian oppression, per- 
haps with special reference to the tribute imposed upon Heze- 
kiah) shall depart (be removed) from thy shoulder, and his yoke 
(a poetical equivalent to burden) from thy neck (oh Israel !) and 
the yoke (itself) shall be destroyed (or broken off) because of (liter? 
ally, from the face of) oil (or fatness or anointing). The only 
difficulty lies in the concluding words, which have been vari- 
ously understood. Some suppose an allusion to the softening 
of the yoke with oil, or to its preservation by it. But in this 
interpretation, the explanatory fact is arbitrarily assumed. 


04her8 take the word in the sense of fat or fatness, and suppose 
an allusion to the rejection of the yoke by a fat bullock, Deut 
32 : 15. Hos. 4 : 16. 10 : 11, or to the bursting of the yoke 
by the increasing fatness of the bullock's neck, or to the wear- 
ing away of the yoke by the neck, instead of the neck by the 
yoke. The general meaning of the verse is plain, as a predic- 
tion of deliverance from Assyrian bondage. 

28. From the time of the Assyrian's overthrow the Prophet 
now reverts to that of his invasion, which he describes in the 
most vivid manner by rapidly enumerating the main points of 
his march from the frontier of Judah to the gates of Jerusalem. 
Some regard the description as ideal and intended to express, 
in a poetical manner, the quarter from which the invasion 
was to come and its general direction, by specifying cer- 
tain places as the points through which it was to pass. The 
same position is maintained in Robinson's Researches (vol. 2. 
p. 149), on the ground that the road here traced could never 
have been commonly used, because impracticable from the 
nature of the ground. If passable at all, however, it may well 
have been adopted in a case of bold invasion, where surprise 
was a main object. The difficulties of the route in question 
must be slight compared with those by which Hannibal and 
Napoleon crossed the Alps. It is therefore not impossible nor 
even improbable, that Isaiah intended to delineate the actual 
course taken by Sennacherib. At the same time this is not a 
necessary supposition, since we may conceive the Prophet 
standing in vision on the walls of Jerusalem, and looking 
towards the quarter from which the invasion was to come, 
enumerating certain intervening points, without intending to 
predict that he would really pass through them. In this case, 
the more difficult the route described, the better suited would it 
be to express the idea that the enemy would come in spite of 
all opposing obstacles. The places here enumerated seem to 


have belonged chiefly or wholly to the tribes of Benjamin tad 
Judah. Some of them are still in existence, and the site of 
several has been recently determined by the personal obsertv 
tions and inquiries of Robinson and Smith. The catalogue 
begins at the frontier of the kingdom of Judah, and at the first 
place conquered by the Israelites on taking possession of the 
land The language is precisely that of an eye-witness describ- 
ing at the moment what he actually sees. He is come to Aiaih 
— he is passed to Migron — to Michmash he intrusts his baggage. 
Although the form Aiaih nowhere else occurs, it is commonly 
supposed to be the same with Ai, the ancient royal city of the 
Canaanite s, destroyed by Joshua (Josh. 8:1), and afterwards 
rebuilt (Ezra 2 : 28. Neh. 7 : 32). The ancient Ai was situ- 
ated on a height to the north-east of Jerusalem. According 
to Dr. Robinson, its site is probably still marked by certain rains, 
south of Deir Diwan, an hour from Bethel. The present form, 
he passes, represents the thing as actually taking place ; the 
preterite, he has passed, implies that he has scarcely reached a 
place before he leaves it, and is therefore more expressive of 
his rapid movements. The precise situation of Migron is now 
unknown, as it is mentioned only here and in 1 Sam. 14 : % 
from which text it would seem to have been near to Gibeah. 
Michmash is still in existence under the almost unchanged 
name of Mukhmas, to the north-east of Jeba, on the slope of 
a steep valley. The place is now desolate, but exhibits signs 
of former strength, foundations of hewn stone* and prostrate 

29. They have passed the pass, a narrow passage between 
Michmash and Geba (1 Sam. 13 : 3, 5 etc.), a spot no doubt 
easily maintained against an enemy. Their passing it impli** 
that they met with no resistance, or had overcome it, and that 
there was now little or nothing to impede their march. A 
Gtba they have taken tup their lodging (literally, lodged a lodg* 


ing). Geba appears from 1 Kings 15 : 22 to have been on or 
near the line between Benjamin and Judah. There is a small 
village now called Jeba, half in ruins, with large hewn stones 
and the remains of a square tower, on the opposite side of the 
valley from the ancient Miohmash. This place Robinson and 
Smith supposed at first to be Geba, but afterwards concluded 
that it must be Gibeah of Saul, and that the site of Geba must 
be farther down, where they heard of ruins, but had not time 
to explore (vol 2. pp. 114, 115). Thus far he has described 
what the Assyrians themselves do — they cross the line at Ajath 
— pass through Migron — leave their baggage at Miohmash — 
lodge at Geba. Now he describes what the places themselves 
do ; Ramah trembles — Gibeah of Saul flees. Ramah was a city 
of Benjamin, near Gibeah, but further from Jerusalem. It is 
•till in existence as Er-ram. It is about half a mile nearly due 
west of Jeba, but hidden from it by intervening heights (Rob- 
inson, vol. 2. pp. 108 — 114). It is two hours north of Jerusa- 
lem, on the eastern side of the road to Nablus. The identity 
of this place with the ancient Ramah was long lost sight of, but 
has been clearly ascertained by Smith and Robinson. Ramah 
trembles (or is afraid) at the enemy's approach, a strong and 
beautiful personification, or the place may be simply put for its 
inhabitants. The trembling and flight of these towns is natu- 
rally represented as occurring while the enemy was resting at 
Geba. It may imply, either that Ramah was not in the direct 
line of the march but within sight and hearing of it, or on the 
contrary, that it was the next place to be reached, and trem- 
bling in apprehension of it. A still stronger metaphor is used 
as to the n*ext place. Gibeah of Saul, so called because it was 
his birth-place and residence, and to distinguish it from others 
of the same name, is fled. There is here a rapid but marked 
elimax. While Ramah trembles, Gibeah flees. 

-, 30. To terror and flight he now adds an audible expression 


of distress, representing one place as crying, another as listen, 
ing, and according to some writers, a third as responding. At 
the same time he exchanges the language of description for that 
of direct personal address. Cry aloud, daughter Gallin (or 
daughter of Gallim), hearken Laishah, (ah) poor Anathoth ! The 
site of Gallim is no longer known, bnt it was no doubt some- 
where in the neighbourhood of Gibeah. The personification is 
made more distinct by the use of the word daughter, whether 
employed simply for that purpose "and applied to the town 
itself, or, as in many other cases, to the population, as an indi- 

31. Madmenah wanders (or removes from her place), thevt 
habitants of Gebimflee (or cause to flee i. e. carry off their goods). 
These places are no longer in existence, nor are they mentioned 
elsewhere. In this verse, for the first time, the inhabitants are 
expressly mentioned and distinguished from the place itself 

32. This verse conducts him to the last stage of his progress, 
to a point so near the Holy City that he may defy it thence. 
Yet to-day in Nob (he is) to stand (and there) will shake his hand 
(a gesture of menace and defiance) against the mountain of the 
house (or daughter) of Zion (i. e. Mount Zion itself), the hill of 
Jerusalem. Nob was a sacerdotal city of Benjamin near Ana- 
thoth (Neh. 1 1 : 32), and according to some, within sight of 
Jerusalem Robinson and Smith explored the ridge of Olivet for 
traces of this town, but without success. The Nob here men- 
tioned is no doubt the same that Saul destroyed, although there 
was another in the plain towards Lydda. 

33. To the triumphant march and proud defiance now suc- 
ceeds abruptly the tremendous downfall of the enemy himself, 
in describing which the Prophet resumes the figure dropped at 
v. 19, and represent* the catastrophe as the sudden and violent 


prostration of a forest. Behold, the Lord, Jehovah of Hosts (is) 
lapping (or about to lop) the branch (of this great tree) with ter- 
ror (or tremendous violence), and the (trees) high of stature (shall 
be) felled, and the lofty ones brought loio. Lofty of stature is not 
to be applied to men directly, as descriptive either of their pride 
or their appearance, but to trees, as representing the Assyrians 
in general or their chief men in particular. 

34. And he (Jehovah) shall cut down (or away) the thickets of 
the forest (the Assyrian army) with iron, (i. e. with an instru- 
ment of iron, as an axe), and this Lebanon (this wooded moun- 
tain, this enormous forest, still referring to the host of the As- 
syrians) with (or by) a mighty one. It is clear that the iron of 
this verse and the fire of v. 17 denote one and the same thing, 
both implying that the forest was to perish, not by slow decay, 
but by sudden violence, which shows the absurdity of giving a 
specific sense to all the particulars in such a picture. Thus 
the thickets are probably mentioned only to complete the picture 
of a forest totally destroyed. The general figure of a forest is 
made more specific by referring to Lebanon, a mountain cele- 
brated for its woods. 


This chapter is occupied with promises of restoration and 
deliverance, external safety and internal peace, to God's own 
people, as contrasted with the ruin previously threatened to their 
enemies. Borrowing his imagery from the fall of the Assyrian 
forest, just before predicted, the Prophet represents a shoot as 
springing from the prostrate trunk of Jesse, or rather from his 
roots, and invested by the Spirit of Jehovah with all the neces- 


sary attributes of a righteous judge aud ruler, vs. 1-4. The 
pacific effect of the Messiah's reign is then described by the 
beautiful figure of wild and domestic animals dwelling and feed- 
ing together, and of children unhurt by the most venomous 
reptiles ; to which is added an express prediction that all mutual 
injuries shall cease in consequence of the universal prevalence 
of the knowledge of Jehovah, vs. 5-9. To these figures bor- 
rowed from the animal creation, the Prophet now adds others 
from the history of Israel, but intended to express the same 
idea. The Messiah is here represented as a signal set up to 
the nations, gathering the outcasts of his people from all qusr* 
ters. and uniting them again into one undivided body, free from 
all sectional and party animosities, vs. 10-13. Under figures 
of the same kind, the triumph of the church is then represented 
as a conquest over the old enemies of Israel, especially those 
nearest to the Holy Land ; while the interposition of God's 
power to effect this and the preceding promises is vividly de- 
scribed as a division of the Red Sea and Euphrates, and a de- 
liverance from Egypt and Assyria, vs. 14-16. The evidently 
figurative character of some parts of this chapter seems to fur- 
nish a sufficient key to the interpretation of those parts which 
in themselves w^ouid be more doubtful. 

1. The figure of the preceding verse is continued but applied 
to a new subject, the downfall of the house of David and the 
Jewish state, which is contrasted with the downfall of Assyria 
The Assyrian forest was to fall forever, but that of Judah wss 
to sprout again And there shall come forth a twig (or 6hoot) 
from the stock (or stump) of Jesse, and a branch from his rod* 
shall grow. The only application of this passage that can be 
sustained is that to Jesus Christ, who sprang from the family 
of Jesse when reduced to its lowest estate, and to whom alone 
the subsequent description is literally applicable. The fact of 
Christ's descent from David is not only repeatedly affirmed, but 


constantly presupposed in the New Testament, as a fact too 
notorious to be called in question or to call for proof. Jesse 
is supposed by some to be named instead of David, because 
Jesse resided at Bethlehem where Christ was to be born, and 
because the family is here considered as reduced to the same 
obscure condition in which Jesse lived, as contrasted with that 
to which David was exalted, and which the mention of the latter 
would naturally have recalled to mind. 

2. The person, whose origin and descent are metaphorically 
described in the preceding verse, is here described by his per- 
sonal qualities, as one endowed with the highest intellectual 
and moral gifts by the direct influences of the Holy Spirit. 
And upon him shall rest the Spirit of Jehovah, a Spirit of wisdom 
and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of 
knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. The genitives do not 
denote qualities but effects of the Spirit. The Spirit of Jeho- 
vah is not here described as being himself wise etc. but as the 
author of wisdom in others. This is evident from the last clause, 
where the fear of Jehovah cannot be an attribute of his Spirit, 
but must be a fruit of his influence. The qualities enumerated 
are not to be confounded as mere synonymes, nor on the other 
band distinguished with metaphysical precision. None of these 
terms is entirely exclusive of the others. Wisdom, understand- 
ing, the knowledge of God, the fear of God, are all familiar 
scriptural descriptions of religion or piety in general. Wisdom 
and understanding are often joined as equivalent expressions. 
The latter, according to its etymology, strictly denotes the 
power of discernment or discrimination. Both are applied to 
theoretical and practical wisdom, and especially to moral and 
religious subjects. Counsel and strength are the ability to plan 
and the ability to execute, neither of which can avail without 
the other. The knowledge of God does not in itself mean the 
love of him, although it may infer it as a necessary consequence. 


The oorreot knowledge of him certainly produces godly far or 
holy reverence, and the two are probably pat here for religkw 
in the general. The only person in whom the terms of this 
prediction have been verified is Jesus Christ, whose wisdom 
displayed itself in early life and is expressly ascribed to a spe- 
cial divine influence ; who proved himself a disoerner of the 
thoughts and intents of the heart ; whose ministry was not only 
characterized by fortitude and boldness, but attested by mira- 
cles and mighty deeds ; whose knowledge of divine things far 
surpassed that of all other men ; and who was himself a living 
model of all piety. 

3. The Messiah is now described as taking pleasure in true 
piety and recognizing its existence by an infallible sagacity or 
power of discerning good and evil, which would render him su- 
perior to the illusions of the senses and to every external hv 
fluence. This faculty is figuratively described as an exquisite 
olfactory perception, such as enables its possessor to distinguish 
between different odours. And his sense of smelling (i. a his 
power of perception, with a seeming reference to the pleasure it 
affords him, shall be exercised) in (or upon) the fear of Jehovah 
(as an attribute of others), and (being thus infallible) not by ike 
sight (or according to the sight) of his eyes shall he judge, and net 
by the hearing of his ears shall he decide. He shall take de- 
light in goodness, and be able to distinguish it without fail 
from its counterfeits. The sight of the eyes and the hearing 
of the ears are put for the testimony of those senses by which 
men are chiefly governed in their judgments. He should not 
judge of character at all by the senses, but by an infallible 
sagacity or power of discerning good and evil. His consolatum 
sliaU be in the fear of the Lord i. e. afforded by religion. & 
shall not judge according to the sight of his eyes L e. shall not 
despair even under the most discouraging appearances. B* 
shall not reason according to the hearing of his ears L e. he shall 


draw no conclusions from the rumours that may reach him, but 
believe the declarations of the Prophets. 

4. The Messiah, as a righteous judge, is now exhibited in 
contrast with the unjust magistrates of Judah, as described in 
ch. 1 : 23. 10 : 2. 5 : 23. And he shall judge in righteousness the 
weak (or poor) and do justice with equity (or impartiality) to the 
meek of the earth, and shall smite the earth with the rod of his 
mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall slay the wicked. By 
the earth to be smitten, some understand the inhabitants of the 
earth. But the expression seems at least to include the smiting 
of the earth itself, which is elsewhere represented as the object 
of God's wrath, and is here described as cursed on man's ac- 
count. By a breath of his lips, we are to understand a mere word, 
or a mere breath, as something even less than a word, and yet 
sufficient to effect his purpose. Paul, in 2 Thess. 2 : 8, applies 
these words, with little change, to the destruction of Antichrist 
at the coming of Christ. It does not follow, however, that this 
is a specific and exclusive prophecy of that event, but only that 
it comprehends it, as it evidently does. If one of the Messiah's 
works is to destroy his enemies, it cannot be fulfilled without 
the destruction of the last and greatest of those enemies to 
whom the Scriptures make allusion. If the promise in the first 
clause is of general import, the threatening in the last must be 
coextensive with it. 

5. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and 
faithfulness the girdle of his reins, i. e. he shall be clothed or 
invested with these attributes, and they shall adhere closely to 
him. The metaphor of putting on or clothing one's self with 
moral attributes is not unfrequent in the Scriptures. The gir- 
dle is mentioned as an essential part of oriental dress, and that 
which keeps the others in their proper place, and qualifies the 
wearer for exertion. 


6. Here, as in oh. 2 : 4 and 9 : 5, 6, universal peace ia repre- 
sented as a consequence of the Messiah's reign, but under anew 
and striking figure. And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and 
the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and young 
lion and falling together, and a little child shall lead them. The 
third Hebrew noun includes the leopard and the panther, and 
perhaps the tiger. Calf denotes probably any fatted beast, and 
may here be mentioned because beasts of prey select such as 
their victims The wolf is introduced as the natural enemy 
of the lamb, and the leopard, as some allege, sustains the same 
relation to the kid. Dwell does not mean to dwell in gene- 
ral, but to sojourn as a stranger or a guest, and implies that 
the lamb should, as it were, receive the wolf into its home. 
The verb translated lie down is especially appropriated to 
express the lying down of sheep and other animals. Here 
it may denote that the leopard, accustomed to crouch while 
waiting for its prey, shall now lie down peaceably beside it; 
or there may be an allusion to the restlessness and fleetness 
of the wild beast, now to be succeeded by the quiet habits of 
the ruminating species. Most Christian writers, ancient and 
modern, explain the prophecy as wholly metaphorical, and de- 
scriptive of the peace to be enjoyed by God's people under the 
new dispensation. Some apply the passage to the external 
peace between the church and the world, but it is commonly 
regarded as descriptive of the change wrought by Christianity 
in wicked men themselves. To give a specifft meaning to each 
figure in the landscape, making the lamb, the calf, and the fat- 
ted beast, denote successive stages in the Christian's progress, 
the lion open enemies, the leopard more disguised ones, the 
wolf treacherous and malignant ones, the little child the minis- 
try, not only mars the beauty but obscures the real meaning of 
the prophecy. 

7. And the cow and the bear shall feed — together shall Mr 


young lie down — and the lion like the ox shall eat straw. The 
lion's eating straw implies not only cohabitation with domestic 
* cattle, but a change of his carnivorous habits. It denotes a 
total change of habit, and indeed of nature, and is therefore a 
fit emblem for the revolution which the gospel, in proportion 
to its influence, effects in the condition of society, with some 
allusion possibly, as before suggested, to the ultimate deliver- 
ance of the inferior creation from that bondage of corruption, 
to which, for man's sake, it is now subjected. 

8. To express the idea still more strongly, venomous serpents 
are represented as innoxious, not to other beasts, but to the hu- 
man species, and to the most helpless and unthinking of that 
species. And the staking child shall play on (or over) the hole 
of the asp, and on the den of the basilisk (or cerastes) shall the 
weaned child stretch (or place) its hand. The precise discrimina- 
tion of the species of serpents here referred to, is of no impor- 
tance to the exegesis. All that is necessary to a correct under- 
standing of the verse is that both words denote extremely 
venomous and deadly reptiles. The weaned child means of 
course a child just weaned. This verse is a mere continuation 
of the metaphor begun in v. 7, and expresses, by an additional 
figure, the change to be effected in society by the prevalence of 
true religion, destroying noxious influences and rendering it 
possible to live in safety. 

9. The strong figures of the foregoing context are now re- 
solved into literal expressions. They (indefinitely, men in 
general) shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, be- 
cause the land is full of the knowledge of Jehovah (literally, of 
knowing him) like the waters covering the sea. This is not so 
much a direct continuation of the previous description as a sum- 
mary explanation of it. My holy mountain means Zion, or 
Moriah, or the city built upon them, not considered simply as 


a capital oitj, but as the seat of the true religion, and at that 
time the local habitation of the oh arch. What was true of the 
church there is true of the church everywhere. The first clause 
clearly shows that the foregoing description is to be figuratively 
understood. That the «rolf and the lamb should lie down to- 
gether, means in other words, that none should hurt or destroy 
in the Messiah's kingdom. The reason is given in the last clause. 
The point of comparison in the last clause is not the mere ex- 
tent of surface, nor the depth but the fulness of the land to the 
extent of its capacity. This passage is descriptive of the reign 
of the Messiah, not at any one period, but as a whole. A his- 
torian, in giving a general description of the reign of David, 
would not use language applicable only to its beginning. The 
prophecy is therefore one of gradual fulfilment. So far as the 
cause operates, the effect follows, and when the cause shall ope- 
rate without restraint, the effect will be complete and universal. 
The use of the future in the first clause and the preterite in the 
second may imply, that the prevalence of the knowledge of Je- 
hovah must precede that of universal peace. It is not till the 
land has been filled with that knowledge, that men will cease to 
injure and destroy. 

10. Having described the Messiah's reign and its effects, he 
now brings his person into view again. And in that day shall 
the root of Jesse which (is) standing (or set up) be for a signal to 
the nations ; unto him shall the gentiles seek, and his rest (or resi- 
dence) shall be glorious. The family of Jesse now under ground 
shall reappear and become a signal, raised to mark a "place 'of 
rendezvous, for which purpose lofty trees are said to have been 
sometimes used. A signal of the nations then is one displayed 
to gather them. The reference is to Christ's manifestation 
to the gentiles through the preaching of the gospel. To seek 
to is not merely to inquire about, through curiosity, or to 
seek one's favour in the general, or to pay religious honours, 


but more specifically to consult as an oracle or depository of 
religious truth. By his rest we are to understand his place 
of rest, his residence. The church, Christ's home, shall be 
glorious from his presence and the accession of the gentiles. 

11. And it shall be (or come to pass) in that day (the days 
of the Messiah) the Lord shall add his hand (or add to apply his 
hand) a second time, not second in reference to the overthrow 
of Pekah and Eezin, or the return from Babylon, but to the 
deliverance from Egypt. The remnant of his people, not the 
survivors of the original captives, but those living at the time 
of the deliverance, or still more strictly, the remnant accord- 
ing to the election of grace. The countries mentioned are 
put for all in which the Jews should be scattered. There is no 
importance to be attached to the order in which they are enu- 
merated, nor is the precise extent of each material. Assyria 
and Egypt are named first and together, as the two great 
foreign powers, with which the Jews were best acquainted. 
Pathros is Thebais or Upper Egypt, as appears not only 
from Scriptural usage, but also from the Egyptian etymology 
of the name, as denoting the region of the south. Cush is 
not merely Ethiopia proper, but Ethiopia, perhaps including 
part of Arabia, from which it appears to have been settled. 
Shinar is properly the plain in which Babylon was built, thence 
put for Babylonia. Elam is Elymais, a province of Persia, 
contiguous to Media, sometimes put for the whole country. 
Hamath is a city of Syria on the Orontes (see above, ch. 10 : 9). 
Islands of the sea, not merely islands in the strict sense, but the 
shores of the Mediterranean, whether insular or continental, 
and substantially equivalent to Europe, meaning the part of it 
then known, and here put last, as being the most important. This 
prophecy does not relate to the Gentiles or the Christian church,, 
but to the Jews. The dispersions spoken of are not merely 
such as had already taken place at the date of the prediction 



but others then still future, including not only the Babylonian 
exile but the present dispersion. The propheey was not fat 
filled in the return of the refugees after Sennacherib's discom- 
fiture, nor in the return from Babylon, and but partially in the 
preaching of the gospel to the Jews. The complete fulfilment 
is to be expected when all Israel shall be saved. The predic- 
tion must be figuratively understood, because the nations men- 
tioned in this yerse have long ceased to exist. The event pre- 
figured is, according to some, the return of the Jews to Pales- 
tine ; but according to others, their admission to Christ's king- 
dom on repentance and reception of the Christian faith. 

12. And he (Jehovah) shall set up a signal to the nations, and 
shall gather the outcasts of Israel, and the dispersed of Judah shall 
he bring together from the four wings of the earth. To the nations, 
i e. in their sight. The nations thus addressed are not the 
Jews but the Gentiles, and, as most interpreters suppose, those 
Gentiles among whom the Jews were scattered, and who are 
summoned by the signal here displayed to set the captives free, 
or to assist them in returning. The verse then contains two 
successive predictions ; first, that the gentiles shall be called, 
and then that the Jews shall be restored, which agrees exactly 
with Paul's account of the connection between these events. 
Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the 
gentiles be come in (Rom. 1 1 : 25, 26). On this hypothesis, 
the signal is displayed to the gentiles, not that they may send 
or bring the Jews back, but that they may come themselves, 
and then the gathering of Israel and Judah is added, as a 
distinct if not a subsequent event. Israel and Judah are put 
together to denote the race in general. If this verse be un- 
derstood as predicting the agency of the Gentiles in restoring 
the Jews, it may be said to have been partially fulfilled in the 
return from Babylon under the auspices of Cyrus, and again in 
all efforts made by gentile Christians to convert the Jews; but 


its full accomplishment is still prospective, and God may even 
now be lifting up a signal to the gentiles for this very purpose. 

13. And the envy of Ephraim shall depart (or cease), and the 
enemies of Judah shall be cutoff. Ephraim shall not envy Judah, 
and Judah shall not vex (oppress or harass) Ephraim. Jacob, 
in his prophetic statement of the fortunes of his sons, dis- 
regards the rights of primogeniture and gives the pre-eminence 
to Judah and Joseph (Gen. 49 : 8-12. 22-26), and in the 
family of the latter to the younger son Ephraim (Gen 48 : 19). 
Hence from the time of the exodus, these two were regarded 
as the leading tribes of Israel. Judah was much more numer- 
ous than Ephraim (Num. 1 : 27, 33), took precedence during 
the journey in the wilderness (Num. 2 : 3. 10 : 14), and re- 
ceived the largest portion in the promised land. But Joshua 
was an Ephraimite (Num. 13 : 8), and Shiloh, where the taber- 
nacle long stood (Jos. 18 : 1. 1 Sam. 4 : 3), was probably within 
the limits of the same tribe. The ambitious jealousy of the 
Ephraimites towards other tribes appears in their conduct to 
Gideon and Jephthah (Judges 8 : 1. 12 : 1). Their special 
jealousy of Judah showed itself in their temporary refusal to 
submit to David after the death of Saul, in their adherence 
to Absalom against his father, and in the readiness with whioh 
they joined in the revolt of Jeroboam, who was himself of the 
tribe of Ephraim (1 Kings 11 : 26). This schism was, there- 
fore, not a sudden or fortuitous occurrence, but the natural re- 
sult of causes which had long been working. The mutual re- 
lation of the two kingdoms is expressed in the recorded fact, 
that there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, and between 
Am and Baasha, all their days (1 Kings 14 : 30. 15 : 16). 
Exceptions to the general rule, as in the case of Ahab and 
Jehoshaphat, were rare, and a departure from the principles 
and ordinary feelings of the parties. The ten tribes, which 
assumed the name of Israel after the division, and perhaps be- 


fore it, regarded the smaller and less warlike state with a con- 
tempt which is well expressed by Jehoash in his parable of the. 
cedar and the thistle (2 Kings 14 : 9), unless the feeling there 
displayed be rather personal than national. On the other 
hand, Judah justly regarded Israel as guilty, not only of politi- 
cal revolt, but of religious apostasy (Ps. 78 : 9-11), and the 
jealousy of Ephraim towards Judah would of course be in- 
creased by the fact that Jehovah had forsaken the tabernacle 
of Shiloh (Ps. 78 : 60), refused the tabernacle cf Joseph, and 
chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, the 
Mount Zion which he loved (ib. vs. 67, 68). This view of the 
matter will serve to explain why it is that when the Prophet 
would foretell a state of harmony and peace, he does so by de- 
claring that the hereditary and proverbial enmity of Judah and 
Israel should cease. It also explains why he lays so much 
more stress upon the envy of Ephraim than upon the enmity 
of Judah, viz. because the latter was only an indulgence of un- 
hallowed feeling, to which, in the other case, were superadded 
open rebellion and apostasy from God. Hence the first three 
members of the verse before us speak of Ephraim's enmity to 
Judah, and only the fourth of Jud all's enmity to Ephraim ; as 
if it had occurred to the Prophet, that although it was Ephraim 
whose disposition needed chiefly to be changed, yet Judah also 
had a change to undergo, which is therefore intimated in the 
last clause, as a kind of after-thought. The envy of Ephraim 
against Judah shall depart ; the enemies of Judah (in the 
kingdom of the ten tribes) shall be cut off; Ephraim shall no 
more envy Judah ; yes, and Judah in its turn shall cease to 
vex Ephraim. That this prophecy was not fulfilled in the re- 
turn from exile, is sufficiently notorious. That it had not been 
fulfilled when Christ came, is plain from the continued enmity 
between the Jews, Samaritans, and Galileans. The only ful- 
filment it has ever had is in the abolition of all national and 
sectional distinctions in the Christian church (Gal 3 : 27, 2ft 


5 : 6) T to which converted Jews as well as others must submit 
Its fall accomplishment is yet to come, in the re-union of the 
tribes of Israel under Christ their common head (Hos. 1 : 11). 

1 4. Instead of assailing or annoying one another, they are 
represented as making common cause against a common enemy. 
And they (Ephraim and Judah, undivided Israel) shall fly (like 
a bird of prey) upon the shoulder of the Philistines towards the 
sea (or westward) ; together they shall spoil the sons of the east (the 
Arabians and perhaps the Syrians) ; Edom and Moab the stretch- 
ing out of their hand (i. e. the object of that action) and the chil- 
dren of Ammon their obedience (i. e. their subjects). All the 
names are those of neighbouring nations with whom the He- 
brews were accustomed to wage war. Edom, Moab, and Am- 
mon, may be specially named for an additional reason, viz. that 
they were nearly related to Israel, and yet among his most in- 
veterate enemies. The Jews explain this as a literal prediction 
having respect to the countries formerly possessed by the races 
here enumerated. Most Christian writers understand it spirit- 
ually of the conquests to be achieved by the true religion, and 
suppose the nations here named to be simply put for enemies 
in general, or for the heathen world ; this method of descrip- 
tion being rendered more emphatic by the historical associa- 
tions which the names awaken. To fly upon means here to fly 
at, or to pounce upon, the figure being that of an eagle or other 
bird of prey. 

15. To the destruction of the enemies of Israel is added a 
prediction that all obstacles, even the most formidable, to the 
restoration of God's people, shall be overcome or taken away 
by his almighty power. This idea is naturally expressed by 
the dividing of the Red Sea and Euphrates, because Egypt 
and Assyria are the two great powers from which Israel had 
suffered and was yet to be delivered. And Jehovah will destroy 


(by drying up) the tongue (or bay) cf the tea of Egypt (L e. the 
Red Sea), and he will wave his hand (as a gesture of menace or 
a symbol of miraculous power) aver the river (Euphrates), ta 
the violence of his wind (or breath), and smite it (the Euphrates) 
into seven streams, and make (his people) tread (it) in shoes (L e. 
dry-shod). Tongue, which is applied in other languages to pro- 
jecting points of land, is here descriptive of a bay or indenta- 
tion in a shore. The sea of Egypt is not the Nile, as some 
suppose, although the name sea has been certainly applied to it 
from the earliest times, but the Red Sea, called the Sea of 
Egypt for the same reason that it is called the Arabian Gulf. 
The tongue of this sea is the narrow gulf or bay in which it 
terminates to the north-west near Suez, called by the old 
writers the Sinus Heroopolitanus, to distinguish it from the 
Sinus Elaniticus, the north-east extremity. Through the for- 
mer the Israelites passed when they left Egypt, and it is now 
predicted that it shall be utterly destroyed, i. e. dried up. At 
the same time the Euphrates is to be smitten into seven 
streams, and so made fordable, as Cyrus is said to have reduced 
the Gyndes by diverting its water into many artificial channels. 
The terms are probably strong figures drawn from the early 
history and experience of Israel. 

16. And there shall be a highway for the remnant of my people) 
which shall be left, from Assyria, as there was for Israel, in the 
day of his coming up from the land of Egypt. This verse admits 
of two interpretations. According to one, it is a comparison 
of the former deliverance from Egypt with the future one from 
Assyria and the neighbouring countries, where most Jewish 
exiles were to be found. According to the other, it is a repe- 
tition of the preceding promise, that previous deliverances, 
particularly those from Egypt and Assyria, should be repeated 
in the future history of the church. The fulfilment has been 
sought by different interpreters, in the return from Babylon, 


iii the general progress of the gospel, and in the future restora- 
tion of the Jews. The first of these can at most be regarded 
only as a partial or inchoate fulfilment, and against the last 
lies the obvious- objection, that the context contains promises 
and threatenings which are obviously figurative, although so 
expressed as to contain allusion to remarkable events in the 
experience of Israel. Such is the dividing or drying up of the 
tongue of the Red Sea, which must either be figuratively un- 
derstood, or supposed to refer to a future miracle, which last 
hypothesis is certainly not necessary, and therefore can be fully 
justified by nothing but the actual event. 


Taking occasion from the reference to Egypt and the exodus 
in the close of the preceding chapter, the Prophet now puts 
into the mouth of Israel a song analogous to that of Moses, 
from which some of the expressions are. directly borrowed. 
The structure of this Psalm is very regular, consisting of two 
parts, in each of which the Prophet first tells the people what 
they will say, or have a right to say, when the foregoing prom- 
ises are verified, and then addresses them again in his own 
person and in the usual language of prediction. In the first 
stanza, they are made to acknowledge the divine compassion 
and to express their confidence in God as the source of all 
their strength, and therefore the rightful object of their praise, 
vs. 1-3. In the second stanza, they exhort one another to 
make known what God has done for them, not only at home 
but among all nations, and are exhorted by the Prophet to re- 
joice in the manifested presence of Jehovah, vs. 4-6. 


1. And thou (Israel, the people of God) shall say in thai 
day (when the foregoing promise is accomplished) I icill praise 
thee (strictly, acknowledge thee as worthy, and as a benefactor) 
for thou wast angry with me, but thine anger • is turned away 
and thou comfortest me. — The apparent incongruity of thanking 
God because he was angry, is removed by considering that the 
subject of the thanksgiving is the whole complex idea ex- 
pressed in the remainder of the verse, of which God's being 
angry is only one element It was not simply because God 
was angry that the people praise him, but because he was angry 
and his anger ceased. The same idea is expressed by the 
English Version in another form, by intimating early in the 
sentence the relation of its parts, whereas it is characteristic 
of the Hebrew style to state things absolutely first, and qualify 
them afterwards. The same mode of expression is used by 
Paul in Greek, when he says (Romans 6 : 17), God be thanked 
that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have from the heart 
obeyed etc. Thou comfortest me, not by words only but by 

2. Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust, and not be 
afraid ; for my strength and song is Jah Jehovah, and he is be- 
come my salvation. The first verb may be rendered in the 
present (I trust), as describing an actual state of mind; but 
the future form, while it sufficiently implies this, at the same 
time expresses a fixed determination, I will trust, be confident, 
secure. The next words contain a negative expression of the 
same idea. My strength and my song, i. e. the source of my 
protection and the subject of my praise. 

3. And ye shall draw water with joy from the springs of salva- 
tion. This is a natural and common figure for obtaining and 
enjoying divine favour. 


4. And ye shall say (to one another) in that day, praise (or 
give thanks to) Jehovah, call upon his name (proclaim it), make 
known among the nations his exploits (or achievements), remind 
(them) that his name is exalted. Name is here used in the preg- 
nant sense of that whereby God makes himself known, in- 
cluding explicit revelation and the exhibition of his attributes 
in all. 

5. Praise Jehovah (by singing, and perhaps with instruments) 
because he has done elevation (or sublimity, i. e. a sublime deed). 
Known is this (or be this) in all the earth, means properly to play 
upon stringed instruments, then to sing with an accompaniment, 
then to sing in general, then to praise by singing or by music 
generally. In this last sense it may govern the noun directly. 
The English Version, excellent things, is too indefinite. The 
English Version supplies is, and makes the last clause an appeal 
to the whole world for the truth of the thing celebrated. Most 
of the recent versions make it an imperative expression, exhort- 
ing to a general diffusion of the truth. 

6. Cry out and shout (or sing), oh inhabitant of Zion (the 
people or the church personified as a woman), for great in the 
midst of thee (residing in thee by a special manifestation of his 
presence) is the Holy One of Israel (that Holy Being who has 
bound himself to Israel, in a peculiar and extraordinary man- 
ner, as their covenant God). 




Here begins a series of prophecies (chap, xiii-iun) 
against certain foreign powers, from the enmity of which Israel 
had been more or less a sufferer. The first in the aeries is a 
memorable prophecy of the fall of the Babylonian empire and 
the destruction of Babylon itself (chap xm, xiv). The 
Modes are expressly named as the instruments of its subjection, 
and the prophecy contains several other remarkable coincidences 
with history both sacred and profane. Hence it was justly regard- 
ed by the older writers, both Jews and Christians, as an extraor- 
dinary instance of prophetic foresight. The great majority of 
Christian writers understand these chapters as a specific pro- 
phecy of the downfall of the Babylonian empire occasioned by 
the conquests of the Medes and Persians. To this event there 
are repeated unequivocal allusions. There are some points, 
however, in which the coincidence of prophecy and history, on 
this hypothesis, is not so clear. This is especially the case with 
respect to the total destruction and annihilation of the city 
itself, which was brought about by a gradual process through a 
course of ages. The true solution of this difficulty is that the 
prediction is generic, not specific ; that it is not a detailed ac- 
count of one event exclusively, but a prophetic picture of the 
fall of Babylon considered as a whole, some of the traits being 
taken from the first and some from the last stage of the fatal 
process, while others are indefinite or common to all. The same 
idea may be otherwise expressed by saying, that the king of 
Babylon, whose fall is here predicted, is neither Nebuchadnezzar 
nor Belshazzar, but the kings of Babylon collectively, or rather 
an ideal king of Babylon, in whom the character and fate of 
the whole empire are concentrated. Some of the terms applied 
to him may therefore be literally true of one king, some ci 


another, some individually of none, although descriptive of the 
whole. This hypothesis, while it removes all discrepancies, still 
retains the wonderful coincidences of the prophecy with history, 
and makes them more remarkable by scattering them through 
so vast a field. It is universally admitted that the thirteenth 
chapter, and the greater part if not the whole of the fourteenth, 
constitute a single prophecy. The division of the chapters is, 
however, not a wrong one. Both parts relate to the destruc- 
tion of Babylon, setting out from God's decree and winding up 
with the threatening of total desolation. Gh. xiv is therefore 
not a mere continuation of oh. xin, but a repetition of the 
same matter in another form. The difference of form is chiefly 
this, that while ch. xin is more historical in its arrangement, 
eh. xiv is dramatic or at least poetical. Another point of 
difference is that in ch. xin the downfall of Babylon is repre- 
sented rather as an act of divine vengeance, in oh. xiv as a 
means of deliverance to Israel, the denunciations of divine wrath 
being there clothed in the form of a triumphant song to be sung 
by Israel when Babylon ts fallen. The downfall of Babylon, as 
a great an ti theocratic power, an opponent and persecutor of the 
ancient church, affords a type or emblem of the destiny of all 
opposing powers under the New Testament ; and in consequence 
of this analogy, the Apocalyptic prophecies apply the name 
Babylon to the Antichristian power. But these Apocalyptic 
prophecies are new ones, not interpretations of the one be- 
fore us. 


After a title, the prophecy opens with a summons to the 
chosen instruments of God's righteous judgments upon Baby- 


Ion, who are described as mustered by the Lord himself, and 
then appearing, to the terror and amazement of the Babykh 
nians, who are unable to resist their doom, vs 1-9. The great 
catastrophe is then described in a series of beautiful figures, at 
an extinction of the heavenly bodies, and a general commotion 
in the frame of nature, explained by the prophet himself to 
mean a fearful visitation of Jehovah, making men more rare 
than gold, dispersing the strangers resident at Babylon, and 
subjecting the inhabitants to the worst inflictions at the hands 
of the Medes, who are expressly mentioned as the instruments 
of the divine vengeance, and described as indifferent to gain 
and relentless in their cruelty, vs. 1-18. From this beginning 
of the process of destruction, we are then hurried on to its final 
consummation, the completeness of which is expressed by a com- 
parison with the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, and by a 
prediction that the site of Babylon shall not be frequented even 
by the wandering Arab, or by shepherds and their flocks, but 
only by solitary animals whose presence is itself a sign of utter 
desolation, vs. 19-22. • 

1. The Burden of Babylon (or threatening prophecy respect- 
ing it), which Isaiah the son of Amoz saio (received by revelation). 
There are two interpretations of the word translated burden, 
both very ancient. The one makes it simply mean a declaration, 
or more specifically a divine declaration, a prophecy, oracle, or 
vision. The other explanation gives the word the sense of a 
minatory prophecy. Because in other connections it always 
means a burden, it is best to retain the common explanation. 
This word occurs in the titles of all the distinct prophecies of 
this second part. 

2. The attack of the Medes and Persians upon Babylon is 
now foretold, not in the proper form of a prediction, nor even in 
that of a description, which is often substituted for it, but in thai 


of an order from Jehovah to his ministers to summon the in- 
vaders, first by an elevated signal, and then as they draw nearer 
by gestures and the voice. Upon a bare hill (i. e. one with a 
clear summit, not concealed by trees) set up a signal., raise the 
voice (shout or cry aloud) to them (the Medes and Persians), 
and let them enter the gates of the (Babylonian) nobles. Some 
suppose the angels to be here addressed ; others, the captive 
Jews ; but it is best to understand the words indefinitely as 
addressed to those whose proper work it was to do the thing 
commanded. Jehovah being here represented as a military 
leader, the order is of course to be conceived as given to his 
heralds or other officers. They are not commanded to display 
a banner as a sign of victory, but to erect a signal for the pur- 
pose of collecting troops. The nobles are those of Babylon. 

3. The enemies thus summoned are described as chosen, 
designated instruments of the divine vengeance, and as already 
exulting in the certainty of their success. I (myself) have given 
command (or a commission) to my consecrated (chosen and ap- 
pointed instruments). Yes (literally, also), I have called (forth) 
my mighty ones (or heroes) for (the execution of) my wrath, my 
proud exulters. Consecrated is here used in its primary and 
proper sense of separating, setting apart, or oonsecrating to a 
special use or service. To call out is here explained by some 
as denoting specially a call to military service. It may, how- 
ever, have the general sense of summoning or calling upon by 
name. The last words of the verse, may be understood as a 
description of the confidence with which they anticipated vic- 
tory ; but most interpreters suppose an allusion to the natural 
character of the Persians as described by Croesus in Herodotus, 
by Herodotus himself and others. 

4. The Prophet, in his own person, now describes the ene- 
mies of Babylon who had just been summoned, as actually on 


their way. He hears a confused noise, which he soon finds to 
be that of confederated nations forming the army of Jehovah 
against Babylon. The voice (or sound) of a multitude in the 
mountains/ the likeness of much people/ the sound of a tumult cf 
kingdoms of nations gathered (or gathering themselves) / Jehovah 
of Hosts mustering (L e. inspecting and numbering) a host of bat- 
tle (i. e a military host) ! The absence of verbs adds greatly to 
the vividness of the description. The sentence really consists 
of a series of exclamations, describing the impressions made 
successively upon the senses of an eye and ear-witness. By 
the mountains some suppose Media to be meant, to which 
others add Armenia and the other hilly countries from which 
Cyrus drew his forces. This supposes the movement here de- 
scribed to be that of the levy or conscription. But it seems 
more natural to understand it, as most writers do, of the actual 
advance of the invaders. The mountains then will be those 
dividing Babylonia from Media or Persia. The expression 
likeness of much people some refer to the indistinct view of a 
great multitude approaching from a distance. The refer- 
ence to sound before and afterwards, makes the reference of 
this clause to the sense of sight improbable. It is commonly 
agreed that there is here a direct reference to the mixture of 
nations in the army of Cyrus. Besides the Persians and the 
Medes, Xenophon speaks of the Armenians, and Jeremiah adds 
the names of other nations (Jer. 50 : 9. 51 : 27). Most inter- 
preters suppose the event here predicted to be subsequent in 
date to the overthrow of Croesus, while some refer it to the first 
attack of Cyrus upon Babylonia, recorded in the third book of 
the Cyropedia. But these distinctions seem to rest upon a 
false view of the passage as a description of particular marches, 
battles, etc., rather than a generic picture of the whole series 
of events which ended in the downfall of Babylon. For a just 
view of the principles on which such prophecies should be ex- 
plained, with particular reference to that before us, see Stuart 


on the Apocalypse, vol 2, p. 143. The title Jehovah of Host*, 
may here seem to be used unequivocally, in the sense of God of 
Battles, on account of the obvious allusion to the word host fol- 
lowing. But as this explanation of the title is not justified by 
scriptural usage (see above, ch. 1 : 9), it is better to understand 
the words as meaning that the Lord of the Hosts of Heaven is 
now mustering a host on earth. He who controls the hosts of 
heaven is now engaged in mustering a host of war } i. e. an army. 
The substitution of the present for the participle in the English 
Version (mustereth) and most others, greatly impairs the force 
and uniformity of the expression by converting a lively ex- 
clamation into a dispassionate assertion. 

5. Coming from a distant land (literally, a land of distance), 
from the (visible or apparent) end of the heavens — Jehovah and 
the instruments (or weapons) of his wrath — to lay waste (or de- 
stroy) the whole land (of Babylonia). The end of heaven is a 
strong but natural hyperbole. The best explanation is that the 
Prophet refers to the horizon or bounding line of vision. He is 
not deliberately stating from what region they set out, but from 
what point he sees them actually coming, viz. from the remotest 
point in sight. This view of the expression, not as a geo- 
graphical description, but as a vivid representation of appear- 
ances, removes the necessity of explaining how Media or Persia 
could be called a distant land or the extremity of heaven. The 
host which Jehovah was before said to be mustering is now 
represented as consisting of himself and the weapons of his 
wrath. This intimation of his presence, his co-operation, and 
even his incorporation, with the invading host, adds greatly to 
the force of the threatening. The Hebrew word translated 
implements includes instruments and vessels. It has here the ac- 
tive sense of weapons, while in Bom. 9 : 22, Paul employs a 
corresponding Greek phrase in the passive sense of vessels. 


Weapons of wrath are the weapons which execute it, vesstk •/ 
wrath the vessels which contain it. 

6. Howl (ye Babylonians, with distress and fear), /or the daf 
of Jehovah (bis appointed time of judgment) is near. Like 
might (i. e. a mighty stroke or desolation) from the Almighty it 
shall come. A destruction as complete and overwhelming as if 
it were an act of reckless violence. This day is said to be near, 
not absolutely with respect to the date of the prediction, but rel- 
atively, either with respect to the perceptions of the Prophet, 
or with respect to what had gone before. For ages Babylon 
might be secure ; but after the premonitory signs just mentioned 
should be seen, there would be no delay. The words of the 
verse are supposed to be uttered in the midst of the tumult and 
alarm of the invasion. 

7. Therefore (because of this sudden and irresistible attack) 
all hands shall sink (fall down, be slackened or relaxed), and 
every heart of man shall melt. Both the clauses, in their strict 
sense, are descriptive of bodily effects, and both indicative of 
mental states. Each of the figures is repeatedly used elsewhere. 
(See Jos. 7 : 5. Ps. 22 : 14. Jer. 50 : 43. Job 4:3.) * 

8. And they (the Babylonians) shall be confounded, pangs and 
throes shall seize (them), like the travailing (woman) they shall 
writhe, each at his neighbour, they shall wonder, faces of flames 
(shall be) their faces. The expression wonder at each other occurs 
once in historical prose (Gen. 43 : 33). It seems here to denote 
not simply consternation and dismay, but stupefaction at each 
other's aspect and condition, q. d. each man at his friend shall 
stand aghast. The last clause i« a continued description of the 
terror and distress of the Chaldeans. In the expression faces 
of flame, the point of comparison according to some is redness, 
here referred to as a natural symptom of confusion and shame. 


But as this seems inappropriate in the case before us, others 
understand the aspect indicated to be one of paleness, as pro- 
duced by fear. Others understand the glow or flush produced 
by anguish and despair to be intended. 

9. All this must happen and at a set time, for behold the day 
of Jehovah cometh, terrible, and wrath and heat of anger, to 
place (or make) the land a waste, and Us sinners he (or it, the 
day) will destroy from it (or out of it). The moral causes of the 
ruin threatened are significantly intimated by the Prophet's 
calling the people of the earth or land its sinners. 

10. The day of Jehovah is now described as one of preter- 
natural and awful darkness, in which the very sources of light 
shall be obscured. This natural and striking figure for sudden 
and disastrous change is of frequent occurrence in Scripture 
(see Isai. 24 : 23. 34 : 4. Ezek. 32 : 7, 8. Joel 2 : 10. 3 : 15. 
Amos 8 : 9. Matth. 24 : 29). Well may it be called a day of 
wrath and terror, for the stars of the heavens and their signs (or 
constellations) shall not shed their light, the sun is darkened in 
his going forth, and the moon shall not cause its light to shine. 
Some understand the image here presented to be that of a 
terrific storm, veiling the heavens, and concealing its lumi- 
naries. But grand as this conception is, it falls short of the 
Prophet's vivid description, which is not that of transient ob- 
scuration but of sudden and total extinction. The abrupt 
change from the future to the preterite and back again, has 
been retained in the translation, although most modern versions 
render all the verbs as present. From simply foretelling the 
extinction of the stars, the Prophet suddenly describes that of 
the sun as if he saw it, and then adds that of the moon as a 
necessary consequence. 

11. The Prophet according to his custom (see above, oh. 


1 : 22. 5 : 7. 1 1 : 9), now resolves his figures into literal expres- 
sions, showing that the natural convulsions just predicted are 
to be understood as metaphorical descriptions of the divine 
judgments. And I will visit upon the world {its) wickedness (i e. 
manifest my presence for the purpose of punishing it), and 
upon the wicked their iniquity, and I will cause to cease the arro- 
gance of presumptuous sinners, and the pride of tyrants (or op- 
pressors) I will humble. World is here applied to the Baby- 
lonian empire, as embracing most of the known world. 

12. To the general description in the foregoing verse he now 
adds a more specific threatening of extensive slaughter, and a 
consequent diminution of the population, expressed by a strong 
comparison. / will make men more scarce (or rare) than pure 
gold, and a human being than the ore of Ophir. The disputed 
question as to the locality of Ophir, although not without his- 
torical and archaeological importance, can have no effect upon 
the meaning of this passage. Whether the place meant be 
Ceylon, or some part of continental India, or of Arabia, or of 
Africa, it is here named simply as an Eldorado, as a place 
where gold abounded, either as a native product or an article 
of commerce, from which it was brought, and with which it was 
associated in the mind of every Hebrew reader. 

13. The figurative form of speech is here resumed, and wbat 
was before expressed by the obscuration of the heavenly bodies 
is now denoted by a general commotion of the frame of nature. 
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth shall 
shake (or be shaken) out of its place in the wrath of Jehovah of 
Hosts and in the day of the heat (or fierceness) of his anger. There- 
fore may either mean because of the wickedness mentioned in 
v. 11, or for the purpose of producing the effect described 
in v. 12. 



14. And it shall be (or come to pass, that) like a roe (or ante- 
lope) chased (or driven by the hunters) and like sheep with none 
to gather then (literally, like sheep and there is no one gaihrring\ 
each to his people, they shall turn, and each to his country, they 
shall flee. The points of comparison to antelopes are their 
timidity and fleetness. The figure of scattered sheep, without 
a gatherer or shepherd, is a common one in Scripture. 

15. The flight of the strangers from Babylon is not without 
reason, for every one found (there) shall be stabbed (or thrust 
through), and every one joined (or joining himself to the Baby- 
lonians) shall fall by the sword. All interpreters agree that a 
genera] massacre is here described, although they differ as to 
the precise sense and connection of the clauses. 

16. The horrors of the conquest shall extend not only to 
the men, but to their wives and children. And thnr children 
shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes, their houses shall be plun- 
dered and their wives ravished. The same thing is threatened 
against Babylon in Ps. 137 : 9, in retaliation for the barbarities 
practised in Jerusalem (2 Chr. 36 : 17. Lam. 5 : 11). The 
horror of the threatening is enhanced by the addition of before 
their eyes. (Compare ch. 1 : 7 and Deut. 28 : 31, 32.) 

17. The Prophet now, for the first time, names the chosen 
instruments of Babylon's destruction. Behold I (am) stirring 
up against them Madai (Media or the Medes), who will not re- 
gard silver, and (as for) gold, they will not take pleasure in it (or 
desire it). Here, as in Jer. 51 : 11, 28, the Medes alone are 
mentioned, as the more numerous and hitherto more powerful 
nation, to which the Persians had long been subject, and 
were still auxiliary. Or the name may be understood as com- 
prehending both, which has been clearly shown to be the usage 
of the classical historians. Indeed, all the names of the great 


oriental powers are used, with more or less latitude and license, 
by the ancient writers, sacred and profane. As the Modes did 
not become an independent monarchy till after the date of this 
prediction, it affords a striking instance of prophetic foresight 
At the date of this prediction they formed a part of the As- 
syrian empire, but revolted at the time of the Assyrian inva- 
sion of Syria and Israel. Their first king Dejoces was elected 
about 700 years before the birth of Christ. His son Phraortes 
conquered Persia, and the united Medes and Persians, with 
the aid of the Babylonians, subdued Assyria under the conduct 
of Cyaxares I. The conquest of Babylon was effected in the 
reign of Cyaxares II by the Median army, with an auxiliary 
force of thirty thousand Persians, under the command of Cyras, 
the king's nephew. The thirst of blood would supersede the 
thirst of gold in the conquerors of Babylon, do that no one 
would be able to secure his life by ransom. 

18. And bows shall dash boys in pieces, and the fruit of the 
womb they shall not pity, on children their eye shall not have 
mercy. The strong term dash in pieces is employed instead of 
one more strictly appropriate, with evident allusion to its use 
in v. 16. The cruelty of the Medes seems to have been pro- 
verbial in the ancient world. 

19. From the very height of greatness and renown, Babylon 
shall be reduced not only to subjection but to annihilation. 
And Babylon, the beauty (or glory) of kingdoms, the ornament, 
the pride, of the Chaldees, shall be like God's overthrowing Sodom 
and Gomorrah, i. e. shall be totally destroyed in execution of 
a special divine judgment. The beauty of kingdoms is by most 
writers understood comparatively as denoting the most beauti- 
ful of kingdoms, either in the proper sense or in that of royal 
cities (see 1 Sam. 27 : 5). But some understand the words 
more strictly as denoting the ornament of an empire which in- 


eluded various tributary kingdoms. This agrees well with the 
next clause, which describes the city as the ornament and pride 
of the Chaldees. The origin of this name, and of the people 
whom it designates, is doubtful and disputed. But whether 
the Chaldees were of Semitic origin or not, and whether they 
were the indigenous inhabitants of Babylonia or a foreign race 4 
imported from Armenia and the neighbouring countries, it is 
plain that the word here denotes the nation of which Babylon 
was the capital. The exact sense of the last clause is that 
already given, like God's overthrowing Sodom and Gomorrah. 
This is a common formula in Scripture for complete destruc- 
tion, viewed as a special punishment of sin. (See above, oh. 
1 : 7, 9.) It is certain that the destruction of Babylon was 
gradual, successively promoted by the conquests of Cyrus, 
Darims Hystaspes, Alexander the Great, Antigonus, Demet- 
rius, the Parthians, and the founding of the cities of Seleucia 
and Ctesiphon. From this apparent disagreement of the 
prophecy with history, some seem disposed to infer that it 
relates not to the literal but spiritual Babylon The true con- 
clusion is that the prophecy does not relate to any one invasion 
or attack exclusively, but to the whole process of subjection and 
decay, so completely carried out through a course of ages, that 
the very site of ancient Babylon is now disputed This hy- 
pothesis accounts for many traits in the description which 
appear inconsistent only in consequence of being all applied to 
one point of time and one catastrophe exclusively. 

20. It shall not be inhabited forever (i. e. it shall never again 
or no more be inhabited) and it shall not be dwelt in from gene- 
ration to generation (literally, to generation and generation), 
neither shall the Arab pitch tent there, neither shall shepherds 
cause (their flocks) to lie there. The conversion of a populous 
and fertile district into a vast pasture-ground, however rich 
and well, frequented, implies extensive ruin, but not such ruin 


as is here denounced. Babylon was not even to be visited by 
shepherds, nor to serve as the encamping ground of wandering 
Arabs. The completeness of the threatened desolation will be 
seen by comparing these expressions with ch. 5:5, 17. 7 : 21. 
17:2, where it is predicted that the place in question should be 
for flocks to lie down with none to make them afraid. So fully 
has this prophecy been verified that the Bedouins, according to 
the latest travellers, are even superstitiously afraid of passing 
a single night upon the site of Babylon. The simplest version 
of the first clause would be, she shall not dwell forever, she shall 
not abide etc. And this construction is actually given by some. 
But the great majority of writers follow the Septuagint and 
Vulgate in ascribing to the active verbs a passive or intransi- 
tive sense. 

21. Having excluded men and the domesticated animals 
from Babylon, the Prophet now tells how it shall be occupied, 
viz. by creatures which are only found in deserts, and the pres- 
ence of which therefore is a sign of desolation. In the first 
clause these solitary creatures are referred to in the general ; 
the other clause specifies two kinds out of the many which are 
elsewhere spoken of as dwelling in the wilderness. But there 
(instead of flocks) shall lie down desert creatures, and their houses, 
(those of the Babylonians) shall be filled with howls or yells, and 
there shall dwell the daughters of the ostrich, and shaggy beasts 
(or wild goats) shall gambol there. The contrast is heightened 
by the obvious allusion to v. 20. As if he had said, flocks shall 
not lie down there, but wild beasts shall ; man shall not dwell 
there, but the ostrich shall. The meaning evidently is that 
the populous and splendid city should become the home of 
animals found only in the wildest solitudes. To express this 
idea, other species might have been selected with the same 
effect. The endless discussions therefore as to the identity of 
those here named, however laudable as tending to promote 


exact lexicography and natural history, have little or no bear- 
ing on the interpretation of the passage. Nothing more will 
be here attempted than to settle one or two points of compara- 
tive importance. Many interpreters regard the whole verse as 
an enumeration of particular animals. This has arisen from 
the assumption of a perfect parallelism in the clauses. It is 
.altogether natural, however, to suppose that the writer would 
first make use of general expressions and afterwards descend to 
particulars. The daughter of the ostrich is an oriental idiom for 
ostriches in general, or for the female ostrich in particular. 
The old translation owls seems to be now universally aban- 
doned. The most interesting point in the interpretation of this 
yerse has reference to the word translated satyrs in the English 
Version ; its original and proper sense is hairy, and its usual 
specific sense he-goats. In two places (Lev. 1 7 : 7. 2 Chron. 1 1 : 
15), it is used to denote objects of idolatrous worship, probably 
images of goats, which according to Herodotus were worshipped 
in Egypt. In Chronicles especially this supposition is the 
natural one, because the word is joined with calves. Both there 
and in Leviticus, the Sep tu agin t renders it puiaiois vain things, 
i. e. false gods, idels. It is elsewhere explained to mean 
demons, and the same interpretation is given in the case before 
us by several of the ancient versions. From this traditional 
interpretation of the word here and in ch. 34 : 14, appears to 
have arisen, at an early period, a popular belief among the Jews, 
that demons or evil spirits were accustomed to haunt desert places 
in the shape of goats or other animals. And this belief is said 
to be actually cherished by the natives near the site of Babylon 
at the present day. To some, the combination of the two mean- 
ings, goats and demons, seems to have suggested the Pans, Fauns, 
and Satyrs of the classical mythology, imaginary beings repre- 
sented as a mixture of the human form with that of goats, and 
supposed to frequent forests and other lonely places. Others 
explain the passage as relating to actual appearances of Satan 


under such disguises. Others understand the language as a 
mere concession or allusion to the popular belief, equivalent to 
saying, the solitude of Babylon shall be as awful as if occupied 
by Fauns and Satyrs, there, if anywhere, such beings may be 
looked for. But the great majority of modern writers adhere 
to the original meaning of the Hebrew word, wild goats. And 
even on the supposition of a reference to evil spirits, there is 
no need of assuming any concession or accommodation to the 
current superstitions If the word denotes demons, this text is 
a proof, not of a popular belief, but of a fact, of a real apparition 
of such spirits under certain forms. The Jewish tradition war- 
rants the application of the Hebrew term to demons, but not to 
the fauns or satyrs of the Greek and Roman fabulists. The 
popular belief of the Jews and other orientals may be traced to 
the traditional interpretation of this passage, and this to the 
Septuagint version. The mention of demons in a list of beasts 
and birds is at variance not only with the parallelism, but with 
the natural and ordinary usages of language. Such a combina- 
tion and arrangement as the one supposed — ostriches, demons, 
wolves, jackals — would of itself be a reason for suspecting that 
the second term must really denote some kind of animal, even 
if no such usage existed. But the usage of the Hebrew word, 
as the name of an animal, is perfectly well defined and certain. 
Even in Lev. 17:7 and 2 Chron. 1 1 : 15, this, as we have seen, 
is the only natural interpretation. The result appears to be 
that if the question is determined by tradition and authority, 
it denotes demons ; if by the context and the usage of the word, 
it signifies wild goats, or more generically hairy, shaggy ani- 
mals. According to the principles of modern exegesis, the latter 
is clearly entitled to the preference ; but even if the former be 
adopted, the language of the text should be regarded as the 
prediction of a real fact, which, though it should not be assumed 
without necessity, is altogether possible, and therefore, if alleged 
in Scripture, altogether credible. 


22. And wolves shall howl in his (the kiog of Babylon's) pair 
aces, and jackals in the temples of pleasure. And near to come is her 
(Babylon's) time, and her days shall not bz prolonged. The latest 
writers seem to be agreed that these are different appellations 
of the jackal, but in order to retain the original variety of ex- 
pression, substitute another animal in one of the clauses, such 
as wolves, wild-cats, etc Whatever be the species here intended, 
the essential idea is the same as in the foregoing verse, viz. that 
Babylon should one day be inhabited exclusively by animals 
peculiar to the wilderness, implying that it should become a 
wilderness itself. The contrast is heightened here by the par- 
ticular mention of palaces and abodes of pleasure, as about to 
be converted into dens and haunts of solitary animals. This 
fine poetical conception is adopted by Milton in his sublime 
description of the flood : 

And in their palaces, 
Where luxury late reigned, sea-monsters whelped 
And stabled. 

The meaning of the word translated palaces, in every other 
case where it occurs, is widows, in which sense some rabbinical 
and other writers understand it here. It is possible that the 
two forms were designedly confounded by the writer, in order 
to suggest both ideas, that of palaces and that of widowhood or 
desolation. This explanation is adopted in the English Ver- 
sion, which has palaces in the margin, but in the text desolate 
houses. The last clause of the verse may be strictly understood, 
but in application to the Jewish captives in the Babylonian 
exile, for whose consolation the prophecy was partly intended. 
Or we may understand it as denoting proximity in reference to 
the events which had been passing in the Prophet's view. He 
sees the signals erected, he hears a noise in the mountains, and 
regarding these as actually present, he exclaims, her time is near 


to come ! It may, however, mean, as similar expressions do in 
other cases, that when the appointed time should come, the 
event would certainly take place, there could be no postpone- 
ment or delay. 


The destruction of Babylon is again foretold, and more ex- 
plicitly connected with the deliverance of Israel from bondage. 
After a general assurance of God's favour to his people, and of 
an exchange of conditions between them and their oppressors, 
they are represented as joining in a song of triumph over their 
fallen enemy. In this song, which is universally admitted to 
possess the highest literary merit, they describe the earth as 
again reposing from its agitation and affliction, and then breaking 
forth into a shout of exultation, in which the very trees of the 
forest join, vs. 1-8. By a still bolder figure, the unseen world 
is represented as perturbed at the approach of the fallen tyrant, 
who is met, as he enters, by the kings already there, amazed to 
find him sunk as low as themselves and from a still greater 
height of actual elevation and of impious pretensions, which 
are strongly contrasted with his present condition, as deprived 
not only of regal honours but of decent burial, vs. 9-20. The 
threatening is then extended to the whole race, and the proph- 
ecy closes as before with a prediction of the total desolation of 
Babylon, vs. 21-23. 

Vs. 24-27 are regarded by the latest writers as a distinct 
prophecy, unconnected with what goes before, and misplaced in 
the arrangement of the book. The reasons for believing that 
it is rather an appendix or conclusion, added by the Prophet 
himself, will be stated in the exposition. 


Vs. 28-32 are regarded by a still greater number of writers 
as a distinct prophecy against Philistia. The traditional ar- 
rangement of the text, however, creates a strong presumption 
that this passage stands in some close connection with what 
goes before. The true state of the case may be, that the 
Prophet, having reverted from the downfall of Babylon to that 
of Assyria, now closes with a warning apostrophe to the Philis- 
tines who had also suffered from the latter power, and were dis- 
posed to exult unduly in its overthrow. If the later applica- 
tion of the name Philistia (Palestine), to the whole land of 
Canaan could be justified by Scriptural usage, these verses 
might be understood as a warning to the Jews themselves not 
to exult too much in their escape from Assyrian oppression, 
since they were yet to be subjected to the heavier yoke of Baby- 
lonian bondage. Either of these suppositions is more reason- 
able than that this passage is an independent prophecy sub- 
joined to the foregoing one by caprice or accident. 

1. This verse declares God's purpose in destroying the Baby- 
lonian power. For Jehovah will pity (or have mercy upon) Jacob, 
and will again (or still) choose Israel and cause them to rest on 
their (own) land, and the stranger shall be joined to them, and 
they (the strangers) shall be attached to the house of Jacob. Jacob 
and Israel are here used for the whole race. The plural pro- 
noun them does not refer to Jacob and Israel as the names of 
different persons, but to each of them as a collective. By God's 
MtUl choosing Israel we are to understand his continuing to treat 
them as his chosen people. Or we may render it again, in 
which case the idea will be, that having for a time or in appear- 
ance cast them off and given them up to other lords, he would 
now take them to himself again. This is not a mere promise 
of temporal deliverance and increase to Israel as a nation, but 
an assurance that the preservation of the chosen people was a 
necessary means for the fulfilment of God's purposes of mercy 


to mankind in general. The literal fulfilment of the last 
clause in its primary sense is clear from such statements as the 
one in Esther 8 : 17. 

2. And nations shall take them and bring them to their place, 
and the house of Israel shall take possession of them on Jehovah 1 * 
land for male and female servants, and (thus) they (the Israelites) 
shall be the captors of their captors, and rule over their oppressors. 
The first clause is rendered somewhat obscure by the reference 
of the pronoun them to different subjects, first the Jews and 
then the gentiles. Most interpreters are agreed that it relates 
to the part taken by the gentiles in the restoration of the 
Jews. To a Hebrew reader the word would convey the idea, 
not of bare possession merely, but of permanent possession, 
rendered perpetual by hereditary succession. The word is 
used in this sense, and with special reference to slaves or ser- 
vants, in Lev. 25 : 46. The simple meaning of this promise 
seems to be that the church or chosen people and the other na- 
tions should change places, the oppressed becoming the oppres- 
sor, and the slave the master. This of course admits both an 
external and internal fulfilment. In a lower sense and on a 
smaller scale it was accomplished in the restoration of the Jews 
from exile ; but its full accomplishment is yet to come. 

3. And it shall be (or come to pass) in the day of Jehovah) s 
causing thee to rest from thy toil (or suffering), and from thy com' 
motion (or disquietude), and from the hard service which was 
wrought by thee (or imposed upon thee). In this verse and the 
following context, the Prophet, in order to reduce the general 
promise of the foregoing verse to a more graphic and impress- 
ive form, recurs to the downfall of Babylon, as the beginning 
of the series of deliverances which he had predicted, and de- 
scribes the effect upon those most concerned, by putting into 
the mouth of Israel a song of triumph over their oppressor, 


This is universally admitted to be one of the finest specimens 
of Hebrew and indeed of ancient composition. 

4. Then thou shalt raise this song over the king of Babylon and 
say, How hath the oppressor ceased, the golden {city) ceased ! The 
meaning of the first clause is of course that Israel would have 
occasion to express such feelings. The king here introduced is 
an ideal personage, whose downfall represents that of the Baby- 
lonian monarchy. 

5. This verse contains the answer to the question in the one 
before it. Jehovah hath broken the staff of the wicked, the rod of 
the rulers. The rod and staff are common figures for dominion, 
and their being broken for its destruction. 

6. Smiting nations in anger by a stroke without cessation, 
ruling nations in wrath by a rule without restraint, literally, 
which he (or one indefinitely) did not restrain. The participles 
may agree grammatically either with the rod or with the king 
who wields it. The English Version applies the last clause 
only to the punishment. But the great majority both of the 
oldest and the latest writers make the whole descriptive of the 
Babylonian tyranny. 

7. At rest, quiet, is the whole earth. They burst forth into sing- 
ing (or a shout of joy). There is no inconsistency between the 
clauses, as the first is not descriptive of silence, but of tran- 
quillity and rest. The land had rest is a phrase employed in 
the book of Judges (e. g. ch. 5 : 31) to describe the condition 
of the country after a great national deliverance. The verb 
to burst is peculiarly descriptive of an ebullition of joy long 
suppressed or suddenly succeeding grief. 

8. Not only the earth and its inhabitants take part in this 


triumphant song or shout, but the trees of the forest Also (or 
even) the cypress's rejoice with respect to thee, the cedars of Leb- 
anon (saying) now that thou art fallen (literally lain down), the 
feller (or woodman, literally the culler) shall not come up against 
us. Now that we are safe from thee, we fear no other enemy. 
As to the meaning of the figures in this verse, there are vari- 
ous opinions ; bat the only one that seems consistent with a 
pare taste, is that which supposes this to be merely a part of 
one great picture, representing universal nature as rejoioing. 
Both here and elsewhere in the sacred books, inanimate nature 
is personified, and speaks herself instead of being merely 
spoken of 

Ipsi laetitia voces ad aidera jactant 
Intonsi montes ; ipeae jam Carolina rapes, 
Ipsa sonant arbusta. 

9. The bold personification is now extended from the earth 
and its forests to the invisible or lower world, the inhabitants 
of which are represented as aroused at the approach of the 
new victim and as coming forth to meet him. Hell from beneath 
is moved (or in commotion) for thee (i. e. on account of thee) to 
meet thee (at) thy coming ; it rouses for thee the giants (the gigan- 
tic shades or spectres), all the chief ones (literally he-goats) of the 
earth ; it raises from their thrones all the kings of the nations. 
The word translated Hell has already been explained (see 
above, ch. 5 : 14) as meaning first a grave or individual sepul- 
chre, and then the grave as a general receptacle, indiscrimi- 
nately occupied by all the dead without respect to character, ai 
when we say, the rich and the poor, the evil and the good, lie 
together in the grave, not in a single tomb, which would he 
false, but under ground and in a common state of death and 
burial. The English word Hell, though now appropriated to 
the condition or the place of future torments, corresponds, in 
etymology and early usage, to the Hebrew word in question. 


The passage comprehends two elements and only two, religious 
verities or certain facts, and poetical embellishments. It may 
not be easy to distinguish clearly between these ; bat it is only 
between these that we are able or have any occasion to dis- 
tinguish. The admission of a third in the shape of supersti- 
tious fables, is as false in rhetoric as in theology. The shades 
or spectres of the dead might naturally be conceived as actually 
larger than the living man, since that which is shadowy and 
indistinct is commonly exaggerated by the fancy. Or there 
may be an allusion to the Canaanitish giants who were exter- 
minated by divine command, and might well be chosen to rep- 
resent the whole class of departed sinners. Or in this par- 
ticular case, we may suppose the kings and great ones of the 
earth to be distinguished from the vulgar dead as giants or 
gigantic forms. 

10. All of them shall answer and say to thee: thou also art 
made weak as we, to us art likened ! This is a natural expres- 
sion of surprise that one so far superior to themselves should 
now be a partaker of their weakness and disgrace. The in- 
terrogative form given to the last clause by all the English 
versions is entirely arbitrary, and much less expressive than 
die simple assertion or exclamation preferred by the oldest and 
latest writers 

11. Down to the grave is brought thy pride (or pomp) r the 
music of thy harps ; under thee is spread the worm ; thy covering is 
vermin. The word harp is evidently put for musical instru- 
ments or music in general, and this for mirth and revelry. 
(See above, ch. 5 : 12.) Some suppose an allusion to the prac- 
tice of embalming ; but the words seem naturally only to suggest 
the common end of all mankind, even the greatest not ex- 
cepted. The imagery of the clause is vividly exhibited in 


Gill's homely paraphrase — ( nothing bat worms over him and 
worms under him, worms his bed and worms his bed-clothes. 1 

12. How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the man* 
ing— felled to the ground, thou that didst lord it over the nations, 
In the two other places where the word translated Lucifer occurs, 
it is an imperative signifying howl. This sense is also put 
upon it here by the Peshito, but all the other ancient versions and 
all the leading Rabbins make the word a noun denoting bright 
one, or more specifically, bright star, or according to the ancients 
more specifically still, the morning star or harbinger of day- 
light, called in Greek etooyooog and in Latin lucifer. The same 
derivation and interpretation is adopted by the latest writers. 
Some of the Fathers, regarding Lake 10 : 18 as an explana- 
tion of this verse, apply it to the fall of Satan, from which has 
arisen the popular perversion of the beautiful name Lucifer to 
signify the Devil. In the last clause the figure of a fallen star 
is exchanged for that of a prostrate tree. The last clause is a 
description of the Babylonian tyranny. 

13. His fall is aggravated by the impious extravagance of 
his pretensions. And (yet) thou hadst said in thy heart (or to 
thyself), the heavens will I mount (or scale), above the stars of 
God will I raise my throne, and I will sit in the mount of meet- 
ing (or assembly), in the sides of the north. He is here described 
as aiming at equality with God himself. There are two distinct 
interpretations of the last clause, one held by the early writers, the 
other by the moderns. According to the first, it relates to the 
mountain where God agreed to meet the people, to commune 
with them, and to make himself known to them (Ex. 25 : 22. 
29 : 42, 43). According to this view of the passage, it de- 
scribes the king of Babylon as insulting God by threatening 
to erect his throne upon those consecrated hills, or even affect- 
ing to be God, like Antichrist, of whom Paul says, with obvious 


allusion to this passage, that he opposeth and exalteth himself 
above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he, 
as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he 
is God (2 These 2 : 4). Whether the weight of argument 
preponderates in favour of the old interpretation or against 
it, that of authority is now altogether on the side of the new 
one. This makes the Babylonian speak the language of a 
heathen, and with reference to the old and wide-spread oriental 
notion of a very high mountain in the extreme north, where 
the gods were believed to reside, as in the Greek Olympus. 
This is the Meru of the Hindoo mythology, and the Elbon 
or Elborj of the old Zend books. The meaning of the clause, 
as thus explained, is, ' I will take my seat among or above the 
gods upon their holy mountain.' This interpretation is sup- 
posed to be obscurely hinted in the Septuagint version. As 
the mythological allusion is in this case put into the mouth of 
a heathen, there is not the same objection to it as in other cases, 
where it seems to be recognized and sanctioned by the writer. 
The general meaning of the verse is of course the same on 
either hypothesis. The expression stars of God does not merely 
describe them as his creatures, but as being near him, in the 
upper world or heaven. 

14. I will mount above the cloud-heights; I will make myself 
like the Most High. This is commonly regarded as a simple 
expression of unbounded arrogance ; but there may be an allu- 
sion to the oriental custom of calling their kings gods, or to the 
fact that Syrian and Phenician kings did actually so describe 
themselves (Ezek. 28 : 2. 6. 9. 2 Mace. 9:12). According to 
some writers, the singular noun cloud is here used to designate 
the cloud of the divine presence in the tabernacle and temple. 
This would agree well with the old interpretation of v. 13 ; but 
according to the other, cloud is a collective, meaning clouds in 


9 # 


15. But instead of being exalted to heaven, thou shaU only 
he brought down to hell, to the depths of the pit. Against the strict 
application of the last clause to the grave is the subsequent 
description of the royal body as unburied. But the imagery is 
unquestionably borrowed from the grave. Some understand by 
sides the horizontal excavations in the oriental sepulchres or 
catacombs. But according to its probable etymology the Hebrew 
word does not mean sides in the ordinary sense, but rather hinder 
parts and then remote parts or extremities, as it is explained by 
the Targum here and in v. 13. The specific reference may be 
either to extreme height, extreme distance, or extreme depth, 
according to the context. Here the last sense is required by 
the mention of the pit, and the word is accordingly translated 
in the Vulgate profundum. 

16. Those seeing thee shall gaze (or stare) at thee, they shall 
look at thee attentively, (and say) is this the man thai made the earth 
shake, that made kingdoms tremble 1 The scene in the other world 
is closed, and the Prophet, or triumphant Israel, is now describ- 
ing what shall take place above ground. The gazing mentioned 
in the first clause is not merely the effect of curiosity but of 
incredulous surprise. 

17. Made a (fruitful or habitable) world like the desert, destroyed 
its cities, and its captives did not set free homewards. These are 
still the words of the astonished spectators as they behold the 
body of the slain king. The construction of the last clause ifl 
somewhat difficult ; but the general meaning evidently is that 
he did not release his prisoners. 

18. All kings of nations, all of them, lie in state (or glory), 
each in his house. There is here a special reference to the 
peculiar oriental feeling with respect to buriaL The Egyp- 
tians paid far more attention to the dwellings of the dead 


than of the living. Some of the greatest national worki 
have been intended for this purpose, such as the pyramids, 
the temple of Belus, and the cemetery at Persepolis. The 
environs of Jerusalem are full of ancient sepulchres. The 
want of burial is spoken of in Scripture as disgraceful even to 
a private person (1 Kings 13:22), much more to a sovereign 
(2 Chr. 21 : 20). The ancient oriental practice of burying 
above ground and in solid structures, often reared by those 
who were to occupy them (see below, ch. 22 : 16) will account 
for the use of house here in the sense of sepulchre, without sup- 
posing any reference to the burial of kings within their palaces. 
To lie in state may seem inappropriate to burial, but is in fact 
happily descriptive of the oriental method of sepulture. 

19. With the customary burial of kings he now contrasts the 
treatment of the Babylonian's body. And thou art cast out from 
thy grave, like a despised branch, the raiment of the slain, pierced 
with the sword, going down to the stones of the pit, (even) like a 
trampled carcass (as thou art). That the terms of the prediction 
were literally fulfilled in the last king of Babylon, is highly 
probable, from the hatred with which this impious king (as 
Xenopbon calls him) was regarded by the people. Such a sup- 
position is not precluded by the same historian's statement that 
Cyrus gave a general permission to bury the dead ; for his si- 
lence in relation to the king rather favours the conclusion that 
he was made an exception, either by the people or the conqueror. 
There is no need however of seeking historical details in this 
passage, which is rather a prediction of the downfall of the em- 
pire than of the fate of any individual monarch. 

20. Thou shaU not be joined with them (the other kings of the 
nations) in burial, because thy land thou hast destroyed, thy people 
thou hast slain. Let the seed of evil-doers be named no more forever. 
The only natural interpretation of these words is that which 


applies them to the Babylonian tyranny as generally exercised 
The charge here brought against the king implies that his 
power was given him for a very different purpose. The older 
writers read the last clause as a simple prediction. Thus the 
English version is, the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned. 
But the later writers seem to make it more emphatic by giving 
the future the force of an imperative or optative. Some 
of the older writers understand the clause to mean that the 
names of the wicked shall not be perpetuated by transmission 
in the line of their descendants. Others explain the verb as 
meaning to be called, i. e. proclaimed or celebrated. It is now 
pretty generally understood to mean, or to express a wish, that 
the posterity of such should not be spoken of at all, implying 
both extinction and oblivion. 

21. That the downfall of the Babylonian power shall be per- 
petual, is now expressed by a command to slaughter the chil- 
dren of the king. Prepare for his sons a slaughter, for the iniquity 
of their fathers. Let them not arise and possess the earth, and fill 
the face of the world with cities. The dramatic form of the pre- 
diction is repeatedly shifted, so that the words of the trium- 
phant Jews, of the Dead, of the Prophet, and of God himself, 
succeed each other as it were insensibly, and without any at- 
tempt to make the points of the transition prominent. The 
command in the first clause is not addressed specifically to the 
Medes and Persians, but more indefinitely to the executioners 
of God's decree against Babylon. The Hebrew construction is, 
they shall not arise (or let them not arise), and the negative 
may either be confined to the first two verbs or extended to the 
third. The last, however, is more natural on account of the ex- 
act resemblance in the form of the two members. The best 
sense, on the whole, is afforded by the old interpretation which 
understands the clause to mean, lest they overspread and colo- 
nize the earth. 


22. This verse eon tains an intimation that the destruction 
jxust predicted is to be the work not of man merely but of God, 
and is to comprehend not only the royal family but the whole 
population. And I (myself) will rise up against them (or upon 
them), saiih Jehovah of Hosts, and will cut off from Babylon (lit- 
erally, as to Babylon) name and remnant and progeny and off- 
spring. The last four nouns are put together to express 
posterity in the most general and universal manner. The 
threatening is applied to the king of Babylon, not as a collect- 
ive appellation merely, but as an ideal person representing the 
whole line of kings. The agreement of the prophecy with his- 
tory is argued from the facts, that none of the ancient royal 
family of Babylon ever regained a throne, and that no Babylo- 
nian empire ever rose after the destruction of the first, Alexan- 
der the Great's project of restoring it having been defeated by 
his death. 

23. And I will render it (literally, place it for) a possession (or 
inheritance) of the porcupine, and pools of water, and will sweep it 
with the broom (or besom) of destruction. The porcupine is here 
mentioned only as a solitary animal frequenting marshy grounds. 
The construction is not, I will make the pools of water a pos- 
session, etc. by drying them up— nor, I will make it a posses- 
sion for pools of water — but, I will make it a possession for the 
porcupine and (will convert it into) pools of water. The expo- 
sure of the level plains of Babylonia to continual inundation 
without great preventive care, and the actual promotion of its 
desolation by this very cause, are facts distinctly stated by 
the ancient writers. Some suppose this evil to have bad its 
origin in the diversion of the waters of the Euphrates by 

24. From the distant view of the destruction of Babylon, the 
Prophet suddenly reverts to that of the Assyrian host, either 


for the purpose of making one of these events accredit the pre- 
diction of the other, or for the purpose of assuring true be- 
lievers, that while God had decreed the deliverance of his peo- 
ple from remoter dangers, he would also protect them from 
those near at hand. Jehovah of Hosts hath sworn,, saying, Surety 
(literally, if not) as I have planned (or imagined) it has come to 
pass, and as I have devised, it shall stand (or be established). 
On the elliptical formula of swearing, see above, ch. 5 : 9. 
The true force of the preterite and future forms, as here em- 
ployed, is that according to God's purpose, it has come to pass 
and will come to pass hereafter. This view of the matter makes, 
the mention of Assyria in this connection altogether natural, 
as if he had said, of the truth of these predictions against 
Babylon a proof has been afforded in the execution of the 
threatenings against Assyria. Another method of expounding 
the verse is to apply both verbs to the same events, but in 
a somewhat different sense. As I intended it has come 
to pass, and as I purposed it shall continue. The Assyrian 
power is already broken and shall never be restored. This 
interpretation of the preterite does not necessarily imply that 
the prophecy was actually uttered after the destruction of Sen- 
nacherib's army. Such would indeed be the natural inference 
from this verse alone, but for reasons which will be explained 
below, it is more probable that the Prophet merely takes his 
stand in vision at a point of time between the two events of 
which he speaks, so that both verbs are really prophetic, the 
one of a remote the other of a proximate futurity. We have 
here a signal instance of prophetic foresight exercised at least 
two centuries before the event. 

25. He now declares what the purpose is, which is so cer- 
tainly to be accomplished, namely, God's determination to break 
Assyria (or the Assyrian) in my land, and on my mountains I 
will trample him ; and his yoke shall depart from off them, and Ms 


burden from off his back (or shoulder) shall depart. My mountains 
some have understood to be Mount Zion, others more generally 
the mountains of Jerusalem ; but it seems to be rather a de- 
scription of the whole land of Israel, or at least of Judah, as 
a mountainous region. (See Ezek. 38 : 21. 39 : 2, 4.) 

26. The Prophet now explains his previous conjunction of 
events so remote as the Assyrian overthrow and the fall of 
Babylon, by declaring both to be partial executions of one gene- 
ral decree against all hostile and opposing powers. This is the 
purpose thai is purposed upon all the earth, and this the hand that 
is stretched out over all the nations. The outstretched hand is a 
gesture of threatening. 

27. As the preceding verse declares the extent of God's 
avenging purpose, so this affirms the certainty of its execution, 
as a necessary consequence of his almighty power. For Jehovah 
of Hosts hath purposed (this), and who shall annul (his purpose) ? 
And his hand (is) the (one) stretched out, and who shall turn it 
back ? The meaning of the last clause is not simply that his 
hand is stretched out, but that the hand stretched out is his. 

28. In the year of the death of king Ahax, was this burden, or 
threatening prophecy, against Philistia. This is a title forming 
part of the text as far as we can trace it back. There is an 
erroneous division of the text in some editions of the English 
Bible, by prefixing the paragraph mark to v. 29, so as to apply 
the date here given to what goes before, whereas dates are al- 
ways placed at the beginning. 

29. Rjoice not, O Philistia, all of thee (at all Philistia), be- 
cause the rod that smote thee is broken, for out of the root of the ser- 
pent shall come forth a basilisk, and its root a flying fiery serpent. 
The name Philistia is applied in Hebrew to the southwestern 


part of Canaan on the Mediterranean coast, nominally belong- 
ing to the tribe of Judah, but for ages occupied by the Philis- 
tines, a race of Egyptian origin who came to Canaan from 
Caphtor, i. e. according to the ancients Cappadocia, bat accord- 
ing to the moderns either Cyprus or Crete, most probably the 
latter. The name is now traced to an Ethiopic root meaning 
to wander, and probably denotes wanderers or emigrants. Hence 
it is commonly rendered in the Septuagint 6Xk6q>vloi. The 
Philistines are spoken of above in ch. 9 : 1 1. 1 1 : 14, and through- 
out the historical books of the Old Testament, as the hereditary 
enemies of Israel. They were subdued by David (2 Sam. 5 : 
17-25. 21 : 15), and still paid tribute in the reign of Jehosha- 
phat (2 Chron. 17: 11), but rebelled against Jehoram (2 Chr. 
21 : 16, 17), were again subdued by Uzziah (2 Chr. 26: 6), and 
again shook off the yoke in the reign of Ahaz (2 Chr. 28 : 18). 
The Greek modification of the Hebrew name is applied by Jose- 
ph us and other ancient writers to the whole land of Israel, from 
which comes our Palestine, employed in the same manner. The 
expression all (or the whole) of thee, may have reference to Philistia 
as a union of several principalities. All interpreters agree that 
the Philistines are here spoken of as having recently escaped 
from the ascendency of some superior power, but at the same 
time threatened with a more complete subjection. The first of 
these ideas is expressed by the figure of a broken rod or staff, 
for the meaning of which see above, ad v. 5. The other is 
expressed by the very different figure of an ordinary serpent 
producing or succeeded by other varieties more venomous and 
deadly. Whatever be the particular species intended, the es- 
sential idea is the same, and has never been disputed. Some 
indeed suppose a gradation or climax in the third term also, the 
fiery flying serpent being assumed to be more deadly than the 
basilisk, as this is more so than the ordinary serpent. But most 
writers regard the other two names as correlative or parallel. 
The transition in the last clause from the figure of an animal 


to that of a plant may serve the doable purpose of reminding 
as that what we read is figurative, and of showing how unsafe 
it is to tamper with the text on the ground of mere rhetorical 
punctilios. As to the application of the figures, there are dif- 
ferent opinions, but their essential meaning is obvious enough. 

30. And thefirst-bom of the poor shall feed, and the needy in se- 
curity lie down, and 1 will kill thy root with famine, and thy rem- 
nant it shall slay. The future condition of the Jews is here 
contrasted with that of the Philistines. The figures in the first 
clause are borrowed from a flock, in the second from a tree, but 
with obvious allusion to a human subject. The first-born of the 
poor is a superlative expression for the poorest and most wretched. 
An allusion to the next generation leaves the promise too remote 
and the expression first-born unexplained. The figurative part of 
the last clause is borrowed from a tree, here divided into two parts, 
the root and the rest or remainder. What is first mentioned as 
an instrument in God's hand, reappears in the last member of 
the sentence as an agent. 

3 1 . Howl, oh gate ! cry, oh city ! dissolved, oh Philistia, is the 
wltble of thee ; for out of thz north a smoke comes, and there is no 
straggler in his forces. The Philistines are not only forbidden 
to rejoice, but exhorted to lament. The object of address is a 
single city representing all the rest. Gate is not here put for 
the judges or nobles who were wont to sit there, nor is it even 
mentioned as the chief place of concourse, but rather with allu- 
sion to the defences of the city, as a parallel expression to city 
itself. According to some writers, the smoke here meant is 
that of conflagrations kindled by the enemy. Some of the older 
writers understood it simply as an emblem for wrath or trouble. 
Lowth cites Virgil's fumantes pulvere campos, and supposes an 
allusion to the clouds of dust raised by an army on the march. 
Others refer it to the practice of literally carrying fire in front 


of caravans to mark the course. It may be doubted, notwith- 
standing the allusion iu the last clause, whether it was intended 
to refer to an army at all. If not, we may suppose with Calvin 
that smoke is mentioned merely as a sign of distant and ap- 
proaching fire, a natural and common metaphor for any power- 
ful destroying agent. The diversity of judgments as to the 
particular enemy here meant, and the slightness of the grounds 
on which they severally rest, may suffice to show that the pro- 
phecy is really generic, not specific, and includes all the agen- 
cies and means by which the Philistines were punished for their 
constant and inveterate enmity to the chosen people, as well as 
for idolatry and other crimes. 

32. And what shall one answer (what answer shall be given 
to) the ambassadors of a nation 1 That Jehovah has founded 
Zion, and i?i it the afflicted of his people shall seek refuge. The 
meaning of the last clause is too clear to be disputed, viz. that 
God is the protector of his people. This is evidently stated 
as the result and sum of the whole prophecy, and as such is 
sufficiently intelligible. It is also given, however, as an an- 
swer to ambassadors or messengers, and this has given rise to 
a great diversity of explanations, which seems to show that the 
expression is indefinite, as the very absence of the article im- 
plies, and that the whole sense meant to be conveyed is this, 
that such may be the answer given to the inquiries made from 
any quarter. Of all the specific applications, the most prob- 
able is that which supposes an allusion to Rabshakeh's argu- 
ment with Hezekiah against trusting in Jehovah. But this 
seems precluded by the want of any natural connection with 
Philistia, which is the subject of the previous context. 



These chapters contain a prediction of the downfall of Moab. 
Some writers regard the last two verses of ch. xvi as an 
addition made by Isaiah to an earlier prediction of his own, or 
an addition made to a prophecy of Isaiah by a later prophet 
The simplest view of the passage is that which regards the 
whole as a continuous composition, and supposes the Prophet 
at the close to fix the date of the prediction which he had just 
uttered. The particular event referred to in these chapters 
has been variously explained to be the invasion of Moab by 
Jeroboam II. king of Israel, by Tirhaka king of Ethiopia, by 
Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, by his successors Shalmaneser, 
Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon, by Nebuchadnezzar king of 
Babylon etc. The safest conclusion seems to be, that the pre- 
diction is generic and intended to describe the destruction of 
Moab, without exclusive reference to any one of the events by 
which it was occasioned or promoted, but with special allusions 
possibly to all of them. Compare the introduction to ch. 



This chapter is occupied with a description of the general 
grief, occasioned by the conquest of the chief towns and the 
desolation of the country at large. Its chief peculiarities of 
form are the numerous names of places introduced, and the 


strong personification by which they are represented as griev- 
ing for the public calamity. The chapter closes with an inti- 
mation of still greater evils. 

1. (This is) the burden of Moab, that in a night Ar-Moab is 
laid waste, is destroyed; that in a night Kir- Moab is laid' waste, 
is destroyed. The English Version understands the first verse 
as assigning a reason for the second. Because in a night etc. 
he ascends etc. But so long a sentence is at variance, not only 
with the general usage of the language, but with the style of 
this particular prophecy. Ar originally meant a city, and Ar- 
Moab the city of Moab, i. e. the capital city, perhaps as the 
only real city of the Moabites. It was on the south side of 
the Arnon (Num. 22 : 36). The Greeks called it AreopoUs or 
City of Mars, according to their favourite practice of corrupting 
foreign names so as to give them the appearance of significant 
Greek words. Ptolemy calls it Rhcbbmathmom, a corruption of 
the Hebrew Rabbath-Moab i. e. chief city of Moab. Jerome 
says that the place was destroyed in one night by an earth- 
quake when he was a boy. The Arabs call it Mab and Er- 
rabba. It is now in ruins. In connection with the capital 
city, the Prophet names the principal or only fortress in the 
land of Moab. Kir originally means a wall, then a walled 
town or fortress. The place here meant is a few miles south- 
east of Ar, on a rocky hill, strongly fortified by nature, and 
provided with a castle. The Chaldee Paraphrase of this verse 
calls it Kcrakka de Moab, the fortress of Moab, which name it 
has retained among the orientals, who extend it to the whole 
of ancient Moab. 

2. The destruction of the chief cities causes general grief 
They (indefinitely) go up to the house (i. e. the temple), and 
Dibon (to) the high places for (the purpose of) weeping. On 
JSfebo and on Medeba, Moab howls — on all his heads baldness— 


every beard cut off The ancient heathen built their temples 
upon heights (ch. 65 : 7). Solomon built one to the Moabitish 
god Chemosh on the mountain before Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7). 
Dibon, a town north of the Anion, rebuilt by the tribe of Gad, 
and thence called Dikon~gad (Num. 33 : 45), although it had 
formerly belonged to Moab, and would seem from this passage 
to have been recovered by them. The same place is called 
Dimon in v. 9, in order to assimilate it to the Hebrew word for 
blood. The modern name is Diban. There is no preposition 
before it here in Hebrew. Hence it may be either the object 
or the subject of the verb. The first construction is preferred 
by the older writers ; those of modern date arc almost unani- 
mous in favour of the other, which makes Dibon itself go up to 
the high places. The objection to the first is that Dibon was 
situated in a plain ; to which it may be answered that the phrase 
go up has reference in many cases not to geographical position 
but to sacredness and dignity. 

3. In its streets they are girded with sackcloth ; on its roofs 
and in its squares (or broad places) all (literally, all of it) howls, 
coming down with weeping (from the house-tops or the temples). 
In the Hebrew of this verse there is a singular alternation of 
masculine and feminine forms, all relating to Moab, sometimes 
considered as a country and sometimes as a nation. The last 
clause is explained by most modern writers, to mean melting 
into tears, as the eye is elsewhere said to run down tears or 
water (Jer. 9 : 18. Lam. 3 : 48). But as the eye is not here 
'mentioned, and the preposition is inserted, making a marked 
difference between this and the alleged expressions, it is better 
to adhere to the old construction which supposes an antithesis 
between this clause and the ascent to the temples or the house- 
tops. Sackcloth is mentioned as the usual mourning dress and 
a badge of deep humiliation. 


4. And Heshbon cries and Elealeh — even to Jahaz is their 
voice heard — therefore the warriors cf Moab cry — his soul is dis- 
tressed to him (or in him). Heshbon, a royal city of the Amo- 
rites, assigned to Reuben and to Gad at different times, or to 
both jointly, famous for its fish -pools, a celebrated town in the 
days of Eusebius, the ruins of which are still in existence 
under the slightly altered name of Hesban. Elealeh, often 
mentioned with it, was also assigned to the tribe of Reuben. 
Eusebius describes these towns as near together in the high- 
lands of Gilead, opposite to Jericho. Robinson and Smith, 
while at the latter place, conversed with an Arab chief, who 
pointed out to them the Wady Hesban, near which far up in 
the mountain is the ruined place of the same name, the ancient 
Heshbon. Half an hour north-east of this lies another ruin 
called El Al, the ancient Elealeh. (Palestine II. 278.) , 

5. My heart for Moab cries out — her fugitives (are fled) as far 
as Zoar — an heifer of three years old — for he that goes up Luhith 
with weeping goes up by it — for m the way of Horonaim a cry 
of destruction they lift up. Every part of this obscure verse 
has given rise to some diversity of exposition. Zoar, one of 
the cities of the plain, preserved by Lot's intercession, is now 
ascertained to have been situated on the eastern shore of the 
Dead Sea, at the foot of the mountains near its southern ex- 
tremity. (Robinson's Palestine II. 480, 648.) It is here 
mentioned as an extreme southern point, but not without allu- 
sion to Lot's, escape from the destruction of Sodom. — The next 
phrase is famous as the subject of discordant explanations. 
These may however be reduced to two classes, those which re- 
gard the words as proper names, and those which regard them 
as appellatives All the ancient versions, and the great ma- 
jority of modern writers, regard the words in question as ap- 
pellatives, and all agree in rendering the first of the two heifer. 
The other is explained to mean three years old, or retaining the 


form of the original more closely, a heifer of the third (year), 
By a heifer three years old, we may understand one that has 
never yet been tamed or broken, according to Pliny's maxim, 
domitura bourn in trimatu, posted, sera, antea praematura. Now 
as personal afflictions are sometimes likened to the taming of 
animals (Jer. 31 : 18. Hos. 10 : II), and as communities and 
governments are often represented by the figure of a heifer 
(Jer. 46 : 20. 50 : 11. Hos. 4 : 16), the expressions thus inter- 
preted would not be inappropriate to the state of Moab, hith- 
erto flourishing and uncontrolled, but now three years old and 
subjected to the yoke. Some of the older interpreters suppose 
this statement of the age to have reference to the voice of the 
animal, which is said to be deepest at that age. There is still a 
doubt, however, with respect to the application of the simile, 
as last explained. Some refer it to the Prophet himself. 
Others to the fugitives of Moab, who escape to Zoar, crying 
like a heifer three years old. Luhith is mentioned only here 
and in Jeremiah 48 : 5. Eusebius describes it as a village still 
called AovelO, between Areopolis and Zoar. Horonaim is 
mentioned only here and in Jer. 48 : 3, 5, 34. The name 
originally means two caverns, and is near akin to Beth-horon. 
It is not improbable that Luhith and Horonaim were on op- 
posite faces of the same hill, so that the fugitives on their way 
to Zoar, after going up the ascent of Luhith, are seen going 
down the descent of Horonaim. A cry of breaking is explained 
by some of the rabbinical interpreters as meaning the explosive 
sound produced by clapping the hands or smiting the thigh. 
Others understand it to mean a cry of contrition, i. e. a penitent 
and humble cry. Gill suggests that it may mean a broken cry, 
L e. one interrupted by sighs and sobs. It is possible however 
that it may be mentioned as the very word uttered. 

6. For the waters of Nimrim (are and) shall be desolations ; 
for withered is the grass, gone is the herbage, verdure there is none. 


The description is continued, the desolation of the country 
being added to the capture of the cities and the flight of the 
inhabitants. The waters meant may be streams which met 
there, or the springs and running streams of that locality. 
The translation of the first verb as a future and the others as 
preterites seems to make the desolation of the waters not the 
cause but the effect of the decay of vegetation. It is better, 
therefore, to adopt the present or descriptive form throughout 
the verse, as all the latest writers do. 

7. Therefore (because the country can no longer be inhabited) 
the remainder of what (each) one has made (i. e. acquired), and 
their hoard (or store), over the brook of the willows they carry 
them away. Not one of the ancient versions has given a cohe- 
rent or intelligible rendering of this obscure sentence. It is 
now commonly agreed that the brook mentioned is the Wady 
el Ahsa of Burckbardt (the Wady el Ahsy of Robinson and 
Smith), running into the Dead Sea near its southern extremity, 
and forming the boundary between Kerek and Gebal, correspond- 
ing to the ancient Moab and Edom. On the whole, the most prob- 
able meaning of the verse is that the Moabites shall carry what 
they can save of their possessions into the ancient land of Edom. 

8. The lamentation is not confined to any one part of the 
country. For the cry goes round the border of Moab (i. e. entire- 
ly surrounds it) ; even to Eglaim (is) its howling (heard), and to 
Beer Elim Us howling. The meaning is not that the land is 
externally surrounded by lamentation, but that lamentation 
fills it. 

9. The expressions grow still stronger. Not only is the land 
full of tumult and disorder, fear and flight ; it is also stained 
with carnage and threatened with new evils. For the waters of 
JDimon are full of blood ; for 1 will bring upon Dimon additions 


fL e. additional evils), on the escaped (literally, the escape) of 
Moab a lion ; and on the remnant of the land (those left in it, or 
remaining of its population). By the waters of Dimon or Di- 
bon, most writers understand the Arnon, near the north bank 
of which the town was built, as the river Kishon is called the 
waters of Megiddo (Judg. 5 : 19). 


This chapter opens with an exhortation to the Moabites to 
teek protection from their enemies by renewing their allegiance 
to the house of David, accompanied by an intimation that this 
prospect of deliverance would not in fact be realized, vs. 1-6. 
From this transient gleam of hope, the prophecy reverts to a 
description of the general desolation and distress, in form almost 
identical with that in the foregoing chapter, vs. 7-12. The 
prophecy then closes with a specification of the time at which it 
was to be fulfilled, vs 13, 14. 

The needless division of the prophecy at this point seems to 
have some connection with an old opinion that the lamb men- 
tioned in v. 1 is Christ. A similar cause appears to have af- 
fected the division of the second, third, and fourth chapters. 

1. In their extremity, the Moabites exhort one another to 
return to their allegiance to the family of David, by whom they 
were subdued and rendered tributary (2 Sam. 8 : 2). When 
the kingdom was divided, they continued in subjection to the 
ten tribes till the death of Ahab, paying yearly, or perhaps at 
the accession of every new king, a tribute of a hundred thou- 
sand lambs and as many rams with the wool (2 Kings 3 : 4, 5). 



After the kingdom of the ten tribes was destroyed, their alle- 
giance could be paid only to Judah, who had indeed been all 
along entitled to it. Send ye the lamb (L e. the customary trib- 
ute) to the ruler of the land (your rightful sovereign), from Sek 
(or Petra) to the wilderness, to the mountain of the daughter if 
Zion. The verse then really continues the description of the 
foregoing chapter. Jerome understands the verse as a prayer 
or a prediction, that God would send forth Christ, the lamb, th$ 
ruler of the land (or earth). Sela, which properly denotes a 
rock, is now commouly agreed to be here used as the name of the 
city Petra, the ancient capital of Idumea, so called because sur- 
rounded by impassable rocks, and to a great extent hewn in the 
rock itself. It is described by Strabo, Diodorus, and Josephos, 
as a place of extensive trade. The Greek form IIUqu \& sup- 
posed to have given name to Arabia Pctraea in the old geogra- 
phy. If so, the explanation of that name as meaning stony, and 
as descriptive of the soil of the whole country, must be incor- 
rect. Petra was conquered by Trajan, and rebuilt by Hadrian, 
on whose coins its name is still extant. It was afterwards a 
bishop's see, but had ceased to be inhabited before the time of 
the crusades. It was then entirely lost sight of, until Burck- 
hardt in 1812 verified a conjecture of Seetzen's, that the site 
of Petra was to be sought in the valley called the Wada Musa, 
one or two days' journey southeast of the Dead Sea. It was 
afterwards explored by Irby and Mangles, and has since been 
often visited and described. See in particular Robinson's Pal- 
estine II. 573-580. Jerome explains the whole verse as a pre- 
diction of Christ's descent from Ruth the Moabitess, the lamb^ 
the ruler of the land, sent forth from the rock of the wilderness! 

2. This verse assigns the ground or reason of the exhortation 
in the one before it. And it shall be (or come to pass, that) 
like a bird wandering, (like) a nest cast out, shall be the daughters 
ofMoab, the fords of Arnon. The construction cast out from the 


nest is inconsistent with the form of the original. Nest may be 
understood as a poetical term for its contents. There are three 
interpretations of the phrase daughters of Moab. The first 
gives the words the geographical sense of villages or dependent 
towns. (See above ch. 3 : 16. 4 : 4.) The second explanation 
makes it mean the people generally, here called daughters, as 
the whole population is elsewhere called daughter. The third 
gives the words their strict sense as denoting the female inhab- 
itants of Moab, whose flight and sufferings are a sufficient in- 
dex to the state of things. In the absence of any conclusive 
reason for dissenting from this strict and proper sense of the 
expressions, it is entitled to the preference. The Arnon is 
mentioned as the principal stream of Moab. 

3. Most of the older writers from Jerome downwards, un- 
derstand this verse as a continuation of the advice to the Mo- 
abites, in which they are urged to act with prudence as well as 
justice, to take counsel (i. e provide /or their own safety) as well 
as execute judgment (i. e. act right towards others). In other 
words, they are exhorted to prepare for the day of their own 
calamity, by exercising mercy towards the Jews in theirs. But 
the explanation of the verse as the words of the Moabites ad- 
dressed to the Jews, is favoured by the foregoing context, which 
relates throughout to the sufferings of Moab, whereas on the 
other supposition, the prophet suddenly exhorts the sufferers to 
harbour the fugitives of that very nation, with whom they had 
themselves been exhorted to seek refuge. This interpretation 
also relieves us from the necessity of determining historically 
what particular affliction of the Israelites or Jews is here re- 
ferred to, a question which has occasioned much perplexity, and 
which can be solved only by conjecture. As noonday heat is a 
common oriental figure to denote distress (Isai. 4 : 6. 25 : 4. 
32 : 2), so a shadow is a relief from it. Possibly, however, the 
allusion here is to the light of noonday, and the shadow dark 


as night denotes concealment. If so, the clause is equivalent 
in meaning to the one which follows. 

4. Let my outcasts, Moab, sojourn with thee, be thou a covert 
(refuge or hiding-place) to them from the face (or presence) of the 
spoiler (or oppressor) ; for the extortioner is at an end, oppression 
has ceased, consumed are the tramplers out of the land. Here, as 
in the preceding verse, the sense depends upon the object of 
address. If it be Moab, as the older writers held, the outcasts 
referred to are the outcasts of Israel. If the address be to 
Israel, the outcasts are those of Moab. The latter interpreta- 
tion seems to be irreconcilable with the form of expression. 
Most interpreters, ancient and modern, give the verbs in this 
last clause a future sense. As if he had said, ' Give the fugi- 
tives a shelter ; they will not need it lopg, for the extortioner 
will soon cease,' etc. This gives an appropriate sense, whether 
the words be addressed to Israel or Moab. 

5. This verse contains a promise, that if the Jews afforded 
shelter to the fugitives of Moab, their own government should 
be strengthened by this exercise of mercy, and their national 
prosperity promoted by the appearance of a king in the family 
of David, who should possess the highest qualifications of a 
moral kind for the regal office. And a throne shall be established 
in mercy, and one shall sit upon it in truth in the tent of David, 
judging and seeking justice and prompt in equity. 

6. We have heard of the pride of Moab, the very proud, Us 
haughtiness and his pride and his wrath, the falsehood of his pre- 
tensions. Those writers who suppose Moab to be addressed in 
the preceding verses, understand this as a reason for believing 
that he will not follow the advice just given As if he had 
said: 'it is vain to recommend this merciful and just course, 
for we have heard etc.' But the modern writers who regard 


what immediately precedes as the language addressed by the 
Moabitish fugitives to Judah, explain this as a reason for re- 
jecting their petition. 

7. Therefore (because thus rejected) Moab shall howl for Moab ; 
all of it shall howl ; for the grapes (or raisin -cakes) of Kir~hareseth 
shall ye sigh (or moan), only (i. e. altogether) smitten. The idea 
may be that the nation of Moab mourns for the land of Moab, 
but the simplest supposition is that Moab for Moab means Moab 
for itself 

8. For the fields of Heshbon are withered — the vine of Sibmah — 
the lords of the nations broke down its choice plants — unto Jazer 
they reached — they strayed into (or through) the desert — its branches 
— they were stretched out — they reached to (or over) the sea. Sib- 
mah is mentioned Num. 32: 38. Josh. 13 : 19, and in the former 
place joined with Nebo, which occurs above, ch. 15 : 2. It had 
been taken by the Aniorites, but was probably again recovered. 
Eusebius speaks of it as a town of Gilead, and Jerome describes 
it as not more than half a mile from Heshbon. According to 
the English Version, it would seem to be the lords of the na- 
tions who came to Jazer, wandered through the wilderness, etc. 
All this, however, is really predicated of the vines, the luxuriant 
growth of which is the subject of the following clauses. It may 
either mean that the vines covered the shore and overhung the 
water, or that the luxuriant vineyards of Moab really extended 
beyond the northern point of the Dead Sea. In the parallel 
passage, Jer. 48 : 32, we read of the sea of Jazer, which may 
have been a lake in its vicinity, or even a reservoir, such as 
Beetzen found there. The same traveller found an abundant 
growth of vines in the region here described, while at Szalt (the 
ancient Ramoth) Burckhardt and Buckingham both speak, not 
only of the multitude of grapes, but of an active trade in raisins. 


9. Therefore I will weep with the wee/ping of Jazer (for) tk 
vine of Sibmah. I will wet thee (with) my tears, Heshbon and 
(thee) Elealeh ! For upon thy fruit and upon thy harvest a cry 
has fallen. Some suppose these to be the words of a Moabite 
bewailing the general calamity. There is no objection, how- 
ever, to the supposition, that the Prophet here expresses his own 
sympathy with the distress of Moab, as an indirect method of 
describing its intensity. The emphasis does not lie merely in 
the Prophet's feeling for a foreign nation, but in his feeling for 
a guilty race, on whom he was inspired to denounce the wrath 
of God. 

10. And taken away is joy and gladness from the fruitful field, 
and in the vineyards shall no (more) be sung, no (more) be shouted: 
wine in the presses shall the (reader not tread ; the cry have I stilled 
(or caused to cease). The English Version, on the other hand, 
by using the expression no wine, seems to imply that the tread- 
ing of the grapes would not be followed by its usual result, 
whereas the meaning is that the grapes would not be trodden 
at all. The same version needlessly puts treaders in the pluraL 
The idiomatic combination of the verb and its participle or de- 
rivative noun, is not uncommon in Hebrew. The ancient mode 
of treading grapes is still preserved in some of the monuments 
of Egypt. 

1 1. Therefore my bowels for Moab like the hnrp shall sound, and 
my inwards for Kir hares. The viscera are evidently mentioned 
as the seat of the affections. Modern usage would require heart 
and bosom. The distinction which philologists have made be- 
tween the ancient usage of bowels to denote the upper viscera 
and its modern restriction to the lower viscera, sufficiently ac- 
counts for the different associations excited by the same or 
equivalent expressions, then and now. The comparison is either 
with the sad notes of a harp, or with the striking of its strings, 



which may be used to represent the beating"of the heart or the 
Commotion of the nerves. Sound is not an adequate translation of 
the Hebrew word which conveys the idea of tumultuous agitation. 

12. From the impending ruin Moab attempts in vain to save 
himself by supplication to his gods. They are powerless and 
he is desperate. And it shall be (or come to pass), when Moab 
has appeared (before his gods), when he has wearied himself 
(with vain oblations) on the high place, then (literally and) he 
shall enter into his sanctuary to pray, and shall not be able (to 
obtain an answer). Another construction, equally grammati- 
cal, though not so natural, is, ' when he has appeared etc. and 
enters into his sanctuary to pray, he shall not be able. 1 The 
weariness here spoken of is understood by some as referring to 
the complicated and laborious ritual of the heathen worship ; by 
others, simply to the multitude of offerings; by others, still 
more simply, to the multitude of prayers put up in vain. The 
last clause may either represent the worshipper as passing from 
the open high place to the shrine or temple where his god re- 
sided, in continuation of the same religious service, or it may 
represent him as abandoning the ordinary altars, and resorting 
to some noted temple, or to the shrine of some chief idol, such 
as Chemosh ( 1 KiDgs 11:7). It does not mean that he should 
not be able to reach or to enter the sanctuary on account of his 
exhaustion, but that he should not be able to obtain what he 
desired, or indeed to effect anything whatever by his prayers. J 

13. This is the word which Jehovah spake concerning Moab of 
old. The reference is not to what follows but to what precedes. 
It may be of old applied either to a remote or a recent period, 
and is frequently used by Isaiah elsewhere, in reference to ear- 
lier predictions. 

14. And now Jehovah speaks (or has spoken) saying, in three 


years, like the years^fan hireling, the glory of Moab shall be Us* 
graced, with all the great throng, and the remnant (shall be) small 
and few, not much. By the years of an hireling most writers 
understand years computed strictly and exactly, with or without 
allusion to the eager expectation with which hirelings await 
their time, and their joy at its arrival, or to the hardships of the 
time of servitude. The glory of Moab is neither its wealth, its 
army, its people, nor its nobility exclusively, but all in which 
the nation gloried. As the date of this prediction is not given, 
the time of its fulfilment is of course uncertain. Some suppose 
it to have been executed by Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia (2 Kings 
19 : 9) ; others by Shalmaneser ; others by Sennacherib ; others 
by Esarhaddon ; others by Nebuchadnezzar. These last of 
course suppose that the verses are of later date than the time 
of Isaiah. That the final downfall of Moab was to be effected 
by the Babylonians, seems clear from the repetition of Isaiah's 
threatenings by Jeremiah (ch. 48). The only safe conclusion 
is that these two verses were added by divine command in the 
days of Nebuchadnezzar, or that if written by Isaiah they were 
verified in some of the Assyrian expeditions which were frequent 
at that period, although the conquest of Moab is not explicitly 
recorded in the history. 


This chapter is chiefly occupied with a prophecy of desola- 
tion to the kingdoms of Syria and Ephraim, vs. 1-11. It 
closes with a more general threatening against the enemies of 
Judah, vs. 12-14. The most satisfactory view of the whole 
passage is that it was meant to be a prophetic picture of tbe 


doom which awaited the enemies of Judah, and that while 
many of its expressions admit of a general application, some 
traits in the description are derived from particular invasions 
and attacks. Thus Syria and Ephraim are expressly men- 
tioned in the first part, while the terms of the last three verses 
are more appropriate to the slaughter of the Assyrian host ; 
but as this is not explicitly referred to, there is no need of re- 
garding it as the exclusive subject even of that passage. The 
eighteenth chapter may then be treated as a part of the same 
context In the first part of ch. 17, the Prophet represents 
the kingdoms of Syria and Ephraim as sharing the same fate, 
both being brought to desolation, vs. 1-3. He then describes 
the desolation of Ephraim especially, by the figures of a har- 
vest and a gathering of olives, in which little is left to be after- 
wards gleaned, vs. 4-6. As the effect of these judgments, he 
describes the people as renouncing their idols and returning to 
Jehovah, vs. 7, 8. He then resumes his description of the 
threatened desolation, and ascribes it to the general oblivion 
of God, and cultivation of strange doctrines and practices, 
vs. 9-1 1. In the close of the chapter, the Prophet first de- 
scribes a gathering of nations, and then their dispersion by 
divine rebuke, which he declares to be the doom of all who 
attack or oppress God's people, vs. 12-14. 

1. The Burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is removed 
from {being) a city, and is a heap, a ruin. For the meaning of 
burden, see above, on ch. 13 : 1. The title is equivalent to 
saying, ' I have a threatening to announce against Damascus.' 
The idiomatic phrase removed from a city means removed from 
(the state or condition of) a city, or, from (being) a city. Com- 
pare ch. 7 : 8, and 1 Sam. 15 : 26. Some regard this and the 
next two verses as a description of the past, and infer that the 
prophecy is subsequent in date to the conquest of Damascus 
and Syria. But as the form of expression leaves this undeter- 

10 # 


mined, it is better to regard the whole as a prediction. 
Damascus is still the most flourishing city in Western Asia, 
It is also one of the most ancient It is here mentioned as 
the capital of a kingdom, called Syria of Damascus to distin- 
guish it from other Syrian principalities, and founded in the 
reign of David by Rezon (1 Kings 1 1 : 23, 24). It was com- 
monly at war with Israel, particularly during the reign of 
Benhadad and Hazael, so that a three years 1 peace is recorded 
as a long one (1 Kings 22 : 1). Under Rczin, its last king, 
Syria joined with Ephraim against Judah, during which con- 
federacy, i. e. in the first years of the reign of Ahaz, this 
prophecy was probably uttered. Damascus appears to have 
experienced more vicissitudes than any other ancient city ex- 
cept Jerusalem. After the desolation here predicted it was 
again rebuilt, and again destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, not- 
withstanding which it reappears in the New Testament as a 
flourishing city and a seat of government. In the verse before 
us, the reference may be chiefly to its downfall as a royal 

2. Forsaken (are) the cities of Arocr ; for flocks shall they bey 
and they shall lie down, and there shall be no making (then) 
afraid. There are three Aroers distinctly mentioned in the 
Bible ; one in the territory of Judah (1 Sam. 30 : 28), one at 
the southern extremity of the land of Israel east of Jordan 
(Jos. 12 : 2. 13 : 16), and a third further north near to Kabbah 
(Jos 13 : 25. Num. 32 : 34). It is now commonly agreed that 
the place meant is the northern Aroer east of Jordan, and 
that its cities are the towns around it and perhaps dependent 
on it. An analogous expression is the cities of Heshbon (Jos. 
13 : 17). At all times, it is probable, the boundaries between 
these adjacent states were fluctuating and uncertain. This ac- 
counts for the fact that the same place is spoken of at different 
times as belonging to Israel, to Moab, to Ammon,and to Syria. 


Forsaken probably means emptied of their people and left deso- 
late. There is then a specific reference to deportation and 

3. Then shall cease defence from Ephraim and royally from 
Damascus and the rest of Syria. Like the glory of the children 
of Israel shall they be, saith Jehovah of Hosts. The defence 
may be either Damascus (as a protection of the ten tribes) or 
Samaria (Mic. 1 : 5). The rest of Syria may either mean the 
whole of Syria besides Damascus, or the remnant left by the 
Assyrian invaders. The latter agrees best with the terms of 
the comparison. What was left of Syria should resemble 
what was left of the glory of Israel. The glory of Israel in- 
cludes all that constitutes the greatness of a people. (See 
above, ch. 5 : 14) 

4. And it shall be (or come to pass) in that day, the glory of 
Jacob shall be brought low (or made weak), and the fatness of his 
flesh shall be made lean. This is an explanation of the com- 
parison in the verse preceding. The remnant of Ephraim was 
to be like the glory of Israel ; but how was that ? This verse 
contains the answer. Glory, as before, includes all that con- 
stitutes the strength of a people, and is here contrasted with 
a state of weakness. The same idea is expressed in the last 
clause by the figure of emaciation. 

5. And it shall be like the gathering of (or as one gathers) the 
harvest, the standing corn, and his arm reaps the ears. And it 
shall be like one collecting ears in the valley of Rephaim. The 
first verb is not to be rendered he shall be (i. e. Israel, or the 
king of Assyria), but to be construed impersonally, it shall be 
or come to pass. The valley of Rephaim or the Giants extends 
from Jerusalem to the south-west in the direction of Beth- 
lehem. It is here mentioned as a spot near to Jerusalem and 


well known' to the people, for the purpose of giving a speeifit 
oharaoter to the general description or allusion of the first 
clause. There is no proof that it was remarkable either for 
fertility or barrenness. Some of the commentators represent 
it as now waste ; but Robinson speaks of it, en passant, as a die 
cultivated valley or plain of Rephaim." (Palestine I. 323.) 

6. And gleanings shall be left therein like the beating (or shak- 
ing) of an olive tree, two (or) three berries in the top of a high 
bough, four (or) five in the branches of the fruit-tree, saith Jehovah 
CM of Israel. There is here an allusion to the custom of 
beating the unripe olives from the tree for the purpose of 
making oil. Those described as left may either be the few left 
to ripen for eating, or the few overlooked by the gatherer or 
beyond his reach. The common version (gleaning grapes) is 
too restricted, and presents the incongruity of grapes upon an 
olive-tree. The transition from the figure of a harvest to that 
of an olive-gathering may be intended simply to vary and mul- 
tiply the images, or, as some suppose, to complete the illustra- 
tion which would otherwise have been defective, because the 
reaper is followed by the gleaner who completes the ingather- 
ing at once, whereas the olive-gatherer leaves some of course. 
Two, three, four, and five, are used, as in other languages, for 
an indefinite small number or a few. This verse is regarded 
by most interpreters as describing the extent to which the 
threatened judgment would be carried. The gleanings, then, 
are not the pious remnant, but the ignoble refuse who survived 
the deportation of the ten tribes by the Assyrians.- 

7. In that day man shall turn to his Maker ', and his eyes to 
the Holy One of Israel shall look. Maker is here used in a 
pregnant sense to describe God, not merely as the natural 
creator of mankind, but as the maker of Israel, the author of 
their privileges, and their covenant God. (Compare Dent 


S3 : 6.) The same idea is expressed by the parallel phrase, 
Holy One of Israel, for the import of which see above, ch 1:4. 
It is matter of history, that after the Assyrian conquest and 
the general deportation of the people, many accepted Heze- 
kiah's invitation and returned to the worship of Jehovah at 
Jerusalem (2 Chron. 30 : 11); and this reformation is alluded 
to as still continued in the times of Josiah (2 Chron. 34 : 9). 
At the same time the words may be intended to suggest that a 
similar effect might be expected to result from similar causes 
in later times. 

8. And he shall not turn (or look) to the altars, the work of his 
own hands, and that which his own fingers have made shall he not 
regard, and the groves (or images of Ashtoreth) and the pillars (or 
images) of the sun. The positive declaration of the preceding 
Terse is negatively expressed in this, with a particular mention 
of the objects which had usurped the place of God. Idol-altars 
are described as the work of men's hands, because erected by 
their sole authority, whereas the altar at Jerusalem was, in the 
highest sense, the work of God himself. The old translation 
groves, i. e. such as were used for idol-worship, has been shown 
to be in some places inadmissible, as when the grove is said to 
have stood upon an altar, or under a tree, or to have been 
brought out of a temple (1 Kings 14: 23 2 Chron. 34 : 4). The 
modern writers, therefore, understand it as denoting the god- 
dess of fortune or happiness, otherwise called Ashtoreth, the 
Phenician Venus, extensively worshipped in conjunction with 

9. In that day shall his fortified cities be like what is Ift in the 
thicket and the lofty branch (namely the cities), which they leave 
(as they retire) from before the children of Israel, and (the land) 
shall be a waste. It is universally agreed that the desolation 
of the ten tribes is here described by a comparison, but as to 


the precise form and meaning of the sentence there is great 
diversity of judgment. Some suppose the strongest towns to 
be here represented as no better defended than an open forest 
Others on the contrary understand the strong towns alone to 
be left, the others being utterly destroyed. These are the prin- 
cipal interpretations of the whole verse, or at least of the com- 
parison which it contains. The first supposes the forsaken 
cities of Ephraim to be here compared with those which the 
Canaanites forsook when they fled before the Israelites under 
Joshua, or with the forests which the Israelites left unoccu- 
pied after the conquest of the country. The other interpreta- 
tion supposes no historical allusion, but a comparison of the ap- 
proaching desolation with the neglected branches of a tree or 
forest that is felled, or a resumption of the figure of the olive- 
tree in v. 6. This last is strongly recommended by its great 
simplicity by its superseding all gratuitous assumptions beyond 
what is expressed. 

10. Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and 
the Rock of thy strength hast not remembered, therefore thou wilt 
plant plants of pleasantness (or pleasant plantations) and with 
a strange slip set it. The planting here described is the sin of 
the people, not their punishment. Those who think a literal 
planting to be meant, understand strange to signify exotic, 
foreign, and by implication valuable, costly ; but upon the 
supposition that a moral or spiritual planting is intended, it 
has its frequent emphatic sense of alien from God, i. e. wicked, 
or more specifically idolatrous. The foreign growth introduced 
is understood by some to be idolatry, by others foreign alliance ; 
but these two things, as we have seen before, were inseparably 
blended in the history and policy of Israel. (See above, ch. 
2 : 6-8.) 

1 1. In the day of thy planting thou wilt hedge it in, and in the 


morning thou wilt make thy seed to blossom, (but) away fives the 
crop in a day of grief and desperate sorrow. In the morning is an 
idiomatic phrase for early, which some refer to the rapidity of 
growth, and others to the assiduity of the cultivator, neither of 
which senses is exclusive of the other. 

12. Hark ! the noise of many nations! Like the noise of the 
sea they make a noise. And the rush of peoples ! Like the rush 
of mighty waters they are rushing. The diversity of judgments, 
as to the connection of these verses (12-14) with the context, 
has been already stated in the introduction. On the whole, the 
safest ground to assume is that already stated in the introduc- 
tion, viz. that the two chapters form a single prophecy or pro- 
phetic picture of the doom awaiting all the enemies of Judah, 
with particular allusion to particular enemies in certain parts. 
To the poetical images of this verse a beautiful parallel is 

found in Ovid's Metamorphoses : 

Qualia fluctus 
Aequorei faciunt, si quis procul audiat ipsos, 
Tale sonat populus. 

13. Nations, like the rush of many waters, rush ; and he re- 
bakes it,-and it flees from afar, and is chased like the chaff of hills 
before a wind, and like a rolling thing before a whirlwind. While 
there seems to be an obvious allusion to the flight of Senna- 
cherib and the remnant of his host (ch. 37 : 36, 37), the terms 
are so selected as to admit of a wider application to all Jeho- 
vah's enemies, and thus prepare the way for the general declara- 
tion in the following verse. 

14. At evening-tide, and behold terror ; before morning he is not. 
This is (or be) the portion of our plunderers, and the lot of our 
spoilers. The Prophet is the speaker, and he uses the plural 
pronouns only to identify himself with the people. 



The two great powers of western Asia, in the days of Isaiah, 
were Assyria and Egypt or Ethiopia, the last two being wholly 
or partially united under Tirhakah, whose name and exploits 
are recorded in Egyptian monuments still extant, and who is 
expressly said in Scripture (2 Kings 19 : 9) to have come out 
against Sennacherib. With one or the other of these great 
contending powers, Judah was commonly confederate, and of 
course at war with the other. Hezekiah is explicitly reproached 
by Rabshakeh (Is. 36 : 9) with relying upon Egypt, L e. the 
Ethiopico Egyptian empire. These historical facts, together 
with the mention of Cush in v. 1, and the appropriateness of the 
figures in vs. 4, 5, to the destruction of Sennacherib's army, 
give great probability to the hypothesis now commonly adopted, 
that the Prophet here announces that event to Ethiopia, as 
about to be effected by a direct interposition of Jehovah, and 
without human aid. On this supposition, although not without 
its difficulties, the chapter before us is much clearer in itself 
and in its connection with the one before it, than if we assume 
with some interpreters, both Jews and Christians, that it relates 
to the restoration of the Jews, or to the overthrow of the Egyp- 
tians or Ethiopians themselves as the enemies of Israel. At 
the same time, some of the expressions here employed admit of 
so many interpretations, that it is best to give the whole as wide 
an application as the language will admit, on the ground before 
suggested, that it constitutes a part of a generic prophecy or 
picture of God's dealings with the foes of his people, including 
illustrations drawn from particular events, such as the downfall 
of Syria and Israel, and the slaughter of Sennacherib's army. 

The Prophet first invites the attention of the Ethiopians and 


of the whole world to a great catastrophe as near at hand, vs. 
1-3. He then describes the catastrophe itself, by the beautiful 
figure of a vine or vineyard suffered to blossom and bear fruit, 
and then, when almost ready to be gathered, suddenly destroyed, 
vs. 4-6. In consequence of this event, the same people, who 
had been invoked in the beginning of the chapter, are described 
as bringing presents to Jehovah at Jerusalem, v. 7. 

1. Ho! land of rustling wings, which art beyond the rivers of 
Cush (or Ethiopia) ! Instead of rustling some read shadowy 
wings. But as the Hebrew word in every other case has reference 
to sound, some suppose an allusion to the noise made by locusts, 
some to the rushing sound of rivers, others to the clash of arms 
or other noises made by armies on the march, here called wings 
by a common figure. The rivers of Cush are supposed by some 
to be the Nile and its branches; by others, the Astaboras, As- 
tapus, and Astasobas, mentioned by Strabo as the rivers of 

2. Sending by sea ambassadors, and in vessels of papyrus on the 
face of the waters. Go ye light (or swift) messengers, to a nation 
drawn and shorn, to a people terrible since it existed and onwards, 
a nation of double strength, and trampling, whose land the streams 
divide. Nearly every word and phrase of this difficult verse 
has been the subject of discordant explanations. The word sea 
is variously explained to mean the Bed Sea, the Mediterranean, 
and the Nile (Is. 19:5. Nah. 3 : 8). The use of vessels made 
of the papyrus plant upon the Nile, is expressly mentioned by 
Theophrastus, Pliny, Lucan, and Plutarch. The second clause 
of the verse is regarded by some writers as the language of the 
people who had just been addressed, as if he had said, i sending 
ambassadors (and saying to them) go etc/ More probably, how- 
ever, the Prophet is still speaking in the name of God. The 
following epithets are applied by some to the Jews, and sup- 


potted to be descriptive of their degraded and oppressed condi- 
tion, by others as descriptive of their warlike qualities. Shorn 
or shaven, is applied by some to the Egyptian and Ethiopian 
practice of shaving the head and beard, while others understand 
it as a figure for robbery and spoliation. By rivers, in the last 
clause, some suppose nations to be meant, or the Assyrians in 
particular ; but most writers understand it literally as a de- 
scription of the country. 

3. All ye inhabitants of the world and dwellers on the earth 
shall see as it were the raising of a standard on the mountains f and 
shall hear as it were the blowing of a trumpet. Another construc- 
tion, more generally adopted, makes the verbs imperative. So 
the English Version : see ye when he lifteth up an ensign on the 
mountains, and when he bloweth a trumpet hear ye. There seems, 
however, to be no sufficient reason for departing from the strict 
translation of the verbs as future. In either case, the verse 
invites the attention of the world to some great event 

4. For thus said (or saith) Jehovah to me, I will rest (remain 
quiet), and will look on (as a mere spectator) in my dwelling 
place, like a serene heat upon herbs, like a cloud of dew (or dewy 
cloud), in the heat of harvest (i. e. the heat preceding harvest, or 
the heat by which the crop is ripened). • This verse assigns a 
reason for the preceding invitation to attend. The obvious 
meaning of the figure is, that God would let the enemy proceed 
in the execution of his purposes until they were nearly accom- 

5. For before the harvest, as the bloom is finished, and the flower 
becomes a ripening grape, he cuts down the branches with the prun- 
ing knives, and the tendrils he removes, he cuts away. The obvious 
meaning of the figures is, that although God would suffer the 
designs of the enemy to approach completion, he would never- 


theless interfere at the last moment and destroy both him and 
them As if he had said, let all the world await the great ca- 
tastrophe — for I will let the enemy almost attain his end — but 
let them still attend— for before it is attained, I will destroy 
hint The verbs in the last clause may either be referred di- 
rectly to Jehovah as their subject, or construed indefinitely, one 
shall cut them down. 

6. They shall be left together to the wild bird of the mountains 
and to tfie wild beasts of the earth (or land), and the wild bird shall 
summer thereon, and every wild beast of the earth (or land) thereon 
shall winter. It is commonly supposed that there is here a 
transition from the figure of a vineyard to that of a dead body, 
the branches cut off and thrown away being suddenly transform- 
ed into carcasses devoured by beasts and birds. For a like 
combination, see above, ch. 14 : 19. But this interpretation, 
though perhaps the most natural, is not absolutely necessary. 
As the act of devouring is not expressly mentioned, the refer- 
ence may be, not to the carnivorous habits of the animals, but 
to their wild and solitary life. In that case the sense would be 
that the amputated branches, and the desolated vineyard itself, 
shall furnish lairs and nests for beasts and birds which com- 
monly frequent the wildest solitudes, implying abandonment 
and utter desolation. The only reason for preferring this in- 
terpretation is that it precludes the necessity of assuming a 
mixed metaphor, or an abrupt exchange of one for another, both 
which, however, are too common in Isaiah to excite surprise. 
On either supposition, the general meaning of the verse is ob- 
vious. The form of the last clause is idiomatic, the birds being 
said to spend the summer and the beasts the winter, not with 
reference to any real difference in their habits, but for the pur- 
pose of expressing the idea, that beasts and birds shall occupy 
the spot throughout the year. According to the common ex- 
planation of the verse as referring to dead bodies, it is a hyper- 


bolical description of their multitude, as furnishing repast for 
a whole year to the beasts and birds of prey. 

7. At that lime shall be brought a gift to Jehovah of Hosts, a 
people drawn out and shorn, and from a people terrible since it has 
been and onward (or still more terrible and still further off), a 
nation of double power and trampling, whose land streams divide, to 
the place of the name of Jehovah of Hosts, Mount Zion. Here, as 
in v. 2, the sense of some particular expressions is so doubtful, 
that it seems better to retain, as far as possible, the form of the 
original, with all its ambiguity, than to attempt an explanatory 
paraphrase. All are agreed that we have here the prediction 
of an act of homage to Jehovah, occasioned by the great event 
described in the preceding verses. The Jews, who understand 
the second verse as a description of the sufferings endured by 
Israel, explain this as a prophecy of their return from exile and 
dispersion, aided and as it were presented as an offering to Je- 
hovah by the heathen, (see below, ch. 66 : 20.) The older 
Christian writers understand it as predicting the conversion of 
the Egyptians or Ethiopians to the true religion. The most 
natural construction of the words would seem to be that the gift 
to Jehovah should consist of one people offered by another. 
The place of God's name is not merely the place called by his 
name, but the place where his name, i. e. the manifestation of 
his attributes resides. 


This chapter admits of a well-defined division into two parts, 
one of which contains threatenings (vs. 1-17), and the other 
promises (vs. 18-25). The first part may again be subdivided. 


In vs. 1-4, the Egyptians are threatened with a penal visitation 
from Jehovah, with the downfall of their idols, with intestine 
commotions, with the disappointment of their superstitious 
hopes, and with subjection to hard masters. In vs. 5-10 they 
are threatened with physical calamities, the drying up of their 
streams, the decay of vegetation, the loss of their fisheries, and 
the destruction of their manufactures. In vs. 11-17, the wis- 
dom of their wise men is converted into folly, the courage of 
their brave men into cowardice, industry universally suspended, 
and the people filled with dread of the anger of Jehovah. The 
second part may be also subdivided. In vs 18-21, the Egyp- 
tians are described as acknowledging the true God in conse- 
quence of what they had suffered at his hand, and the deliver- 
ance which he had granted them. In vs. 22-25, the same cause 
is described as leading to an intimate union between Egypt, 
Assyria, and Israel, in the service of Jehovah, and the enjoy- 
ment of his favor. The Prophet wishing to announce to the 
Jews the decline and fall of that great heathen power, in which 
they were so constantly disposed to trust (30 : 1. 31 : 1), de- 
scribes the event under figures borrowed from the actual con- 
dition of Egypt. As a writer, who should now predict the 
downfall of the British empire, in a poetical and figurative style, 
would naturally speak of its fleets as sunk or scattered, its 
colonies dismembered, its factories destroyed, its railways aban- 
doned, its universities abolished, so the Prophet vividly portrays 
the fall of Egypt by describing the waters of the Nile as failing, 
its meadows withering, its fisheries ceasing, and the peculiar 
manufactures of the country expiring, the proverbial wisdom 
of the nation changed to folly, its courage to cowardice, its 
strength to weakness Whether particular parts of the descrip- 
tion were intended to have a more specific application, is a ques- 
tion not affecting the truth of the hypothesis, that the first part 
is a metaphorical description of the downfall of the great Egyp- 
tian monarchy. So too in the second part, the introduction of 


the true religion, and its effect as well on the internal state as 
on the international relations of the different countries, is ex- 
pressed by figures drawn from the civil and religious institu- 
tions of the old economy. 

1. The Burden of Egypt. Behold ! Jehovah riding on a light 
cloud, and he comes to (or into) Egypt, and the idols of Egypt 
move at his presence, and the heart of Egypt melts within him. 
This verse describes God as the author of the judgments after- 
wards detailed. His visible appearance on a cloud, and the 
personification of the idols, prepare the mind for a poetical 
description. The act of riding on a light cloud implies that he 
comes from heaven, and that he comes swiftly. On the con- 
temptuous import of the word translated idols, see above, ch. 
2:8; on the meaning of burden, ch. 13 : 1. 

2. And I will excite Egypt against Egypt, and they shall 
fight, a man with his brother, and a man with his fellow, city with 
city, kingdom with kingdom. The first verb is by some rendered 
arm, by others join or engage in conflict ; but the sense of stir- 
ring up or rousing is preferred both by the oldest and the latest 
writers. The version usually given, Egyptians against Egyp- 
tians, though substantially correct, is neither so expressive nor 
so true to the original as Egypt against Egypt, which involves 
an allusion to the internal divisions of the kingdom, or rather 
the existence of contemporary kingdoms, more explicitly re- 
ferred to in the other clause. Some understand this verse as 
referring specifically to the civil wars of Egypt in the days of 
Sethos or Psammetichus. But while the coincidence with his- 
tory adds greatly to the propriety and force of the description, 
there is no sufficient reason for departing from its obvious im- 
port, as a description of internal strife and anarchy in general. 
The expressions bear a strong resemblance to those used in the 
description of the state of Judah, ch. 3 : 5. Some regard these 


as the words to be uttered by Jehovah when he enters Egypt 
It may, however, be a simple continuation of the prophecy, with 
a sudden change from the third to the first person, of which 
there are many other examples. 

3. And the spirit of Egypt shall be emptied out (or exhausted) 
in the midst thereof, and the counsel (or sagacity) thereof I will 
swallow up (annihilate or render useless), and they will seek to 
the idols, and to the mutter ers, and to the familiar spirits, and to 
the wizards. By spirit, in the first clause, we are not to under- 
stand courage but intellect. As to the ancient mode of incan- 
tation, see above, ch. 8 : 19. 

4. And I will shut up Egypt in the hands of a hard master, 
and a strong king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, Jehovah of 
Hosts. Master, literally masters, a pluralis majestaticus, else- 
where applied to individual men (Gen. 42 : 30. 33. 2 Kings 
2 : 3, 5, 16). The king here mentioned is identified, according 
to various hypotheses, with Sethos, Psammetichus, Sennacherib, 
Sargon, Nebuchadnezzar, Gambyses, Ochus, and Charlemagne ! 
The very multiplicity of these explanations shows how fanciful 
they are, and naturally leads us to conclude that the Prophet is 
describing in a general way the political vicissitudes of Egypt, 
one of which would be subjection to an arbitrary power, whether 
foreign or domestic, or to both at different periods of its history. 

5. And the waters shall be dried up from the sea, and the river 
shall fail and be dried up. Three distinct verbs are here used 
in the sense of drying up, for which our language does not fur- 
nish equivalents. As the Nile has in all ages been called a 
sea by the Egyptians, most interpreters suppose it to be here 
referred to, in both clauses. According to the exegetical 
hypothesis laid down in the introduction to the chapter, 
this is a prediction of Egypt's national decline and fall, 


clothed in figures drawn from the characteristic features 
of its actual condition. As the desolation of our own wet- 
tern territory might be poetically represented as the drying 
up of the Mississippi and its branches, so a like event in 
the history of Egypt would be still more naturally described 
as a desiccation of the Nile, because that river is still more 
essential to the prosperity of the country which it waters. In 
favour of this figurative exposition is the difficulty of applying 
the description to particular historical events, and also the whole 
tenor of the context, as will be more clearly seen hereafter. 

6. And the rivers shall stink (or become putrid), the streams 
of Egypt are emptied and dried up, reed and rush sicken (pine or 
wither). The streams meant are the natural and artificial 
branches of the Nile. The reed and rush are mentioned as a 
common growth in marshy situations. 

7. The meadows by the river, by the mouth of the river, and all 
the sown ground of the river, shall wither, being driven away, and 
it is not (or shall be no more). The first word in Hebrew 
means bare or open places, i. e. meadows, as distinguished from 
woodland. The English and some other versions treat it as 
the name of the papyrus, but without authority. The word 
translated river is the one already mentioned as the common 
name in Scripture for the Nile, nor is there any need of 
departing from this sense in the case before us. Calvin ex- 
plains mouth to mean source or fountain, which is wholly arbi- 
trary. Others regard it as synonymous with lip, used else- 
where (Gen. 41:3. Exod. 2 : 3) to denote the brink or margin 
of the Nile. Some of the older writers give the word its 
geographical sense, as denoting the place where the waters of 
a stream are discharged into another or the sea. The place af 
seed or sowing, i. e. cultivated ground, is here distinguished from 
the meadows or uncultivated pastures. 


- 8. And the fishermen shall mourn, and they shall lament, all 
the throwers of a hook into the river and the spreaders of 
« net upon the surface of the water languish. Having described 
the effect of the drought on vegetation, he now describes its 
-effect upon those classes of the people who were otherwise de- 
pendent on the river for subsistence. The multitude of fishes 
in the Nile, and of people engaged in catching them, is at- 
tested both by ancient and modern writers. The use of fish in 
ancient Egypt was promoted by the popular superstitions with 
respect to other animals. The net is said to be not now used 
in the fisheries of Egypt. It is remarkable, however, that the 
implement itself appears on some of the old monuments. 
This verse is not to be applied to an actual distress among the 
fishermen at any one time, but to be viewed as a characteristic 
trait in the prophetic picture. When he speaks of a wine- 
growing country, the Prophet renders vineyards and vine- 
dressers prominent objects. So here, when he speaks of a 
country abounding in fisheries and fishermen, he describes their 
condition as an index or symbol of the state of the country. In 
like manner, a general distress in our southern states might be de- 
scribed as a distress among the sugar, cotton, or tobacco planters. 

9. And ashamed (disappointed or confounded) are the workers 
of combed (or hatch ell ed) flax, and the weavers of white (stuffs). 
The older writers supposed the class of persons here described 
to be the manufacturers of nets for fishing. The moderns 
understand the verse as having reference to the working of 
flax and manufacture of linen. 

10. And her pillars (or foundations) are broken down, all 
labourers for hire are grieved at heart. The simplest exposition 
of the verse is that which regards this as a general description 
of distress, extending to the two great classes of society, the 
pillars or chief men and the labourers or commonalty. 



1 1. Only foolish (i. e. entirely foolish) are the princes of Zoan, 
the sages of the counsellors of Pharaoh, (their) counsel is become 
brutish (or irrational). How can ye say to Pharaoh, I am the 
son of wise (fathers), lam the son of kings of old? The refer 
ence is not merely to perplexity in actual distress, but also to 
an unwise policy as one of the causes of the distress iteelC 
Zoan, the Tanis of the Greeks, was one of the most ancient 
cities of Lower Egypt (Num. 13 : 22) and a royal residence. 
The name is of Egyptian origin and signifies a low situation. 
Pharaoh was a common title of the Egyptian kings. It is 
originally an Egyptian noun with the article prefixed. The states- 
men and courtiers of ancient Egypt belonged to the sacerdotal 
caste, front which many of the kings were also taken. The 
wisdom of Egypt seems to have been proverbial in the ancient 
world ( 1 Kings 4 : 30. Acts 7 : 22). The last clause is ad* 
dressed to the counsellors themselves. The interrogation im- 
plies the absurdity of their pretensions. 

12. Where (arc) they? W/tere (are) thy wise men? Pray 
let them tell thee, and (if that is too much) let them (at least) 
knoic, what Jehovah of Hosts hath purposed against (or concern- 
ing) Egypt. It was a proof of their false pretensions that so 
far from being able to avert the evil, they could not even fore- 
see it. The repetition of the interrogative where is highly 

13. Infatuated are the chiefs of Zoan, deceived are the chiefs <f 
Noph, and they have misled Egypt, the corner (or corner-stone) (f 
her tribes. Noph is the Memphis of .the Greek geographers, 
called Moph, Hos. 9:6. It was one of the chief cities of 
ancient Egypt, the royal seat of Psammetichus After Alex- 
andria was built it declined. Arabian writers in the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries speak of its extensive and magnificent 
ruins, which have now almost wholly disappeared. 


14. Jehovah hath mingled in the midst of her a spirit of confu- 
sion, and they have misled Egypt in all its work, like the mislead- 
ing of a drunkard in his vomit. This verse describes the folly 
before mentioned as the effect not of natural causes or of acci- 
dent but of a judicial infliction. Spirit here means a super- 
natural influence. By work we are to understand affairs and 
interests. The last verb in Hebrew is used elsewhere in 
reference to the unsteady motions of a drunken man (Job 
12 : 25. Isai. 28 : 7). 

15. And there shall not be to Egypt a work which head and 
tail, branch and rush, may do. Work here means anything done 
or to be done, including private business and public affairs. 
The figures of head and tail, branch and rush, are used, as in 
ch. 9 : 1 4, to denote all classes of society, or rather the ex- 
tremes between which the others are included. 

16. In that day shall Egypt be like a woman, and shall fear 
and tremble from before the shaking of the hand of Jehovah of 
Hosts, which he (is) shaking over it. The comparison in the 
first clause is a common one for terror and the loss of courage. 
The reference is not to the slaughter of Sennacherib's army, 
but more generally to the indications of divine displeasure. 

17. And the land of Judah shall be for a terror (or become a 
terror) unto Egypt ; every person to whom one mentions it (or every 
one who recalls it to his own mind) shall fear before the purpose 
of Jehovah of Hosts which he is purposing against it. This verse 
relates to the new feelings which would be entertained by the 
Egyptians towards the God of the Jews and the true religion. 
Judah, in a political and military sense, might still appear 
contemptible ; but in another aspect, and for other reasons, it 
would be an object of respect and even fear to the Egyptians. 


18. In that day there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt 
speaking the lip (i. e. language) of Canaan, and swearing to Je 
hovah of Hosts. The city of destruction shall be said to one (i. e. 
shall one be called). In that day, according to prophetic usage, 
is a somewhat indefinite expression, and may either mean during 
or after the distresses just described. Canaan is here put far 
the land of Canaan (as in Ex. 15 : 15), and the language of Car 
naan for the Hebrew language, not because it was the language 
of the old Canaanites, but because it was spoken in the land 
which they once occupied. Some of the later writers understand 
what is here said strictly as denoting an actual prevalence of 
the Hebrew language, while others take it as a strong expression 
for such intimate union, social, commercial, and political, as 
would seem to imply a community of language. The older 
writers very generally apply the terms to religious union and 
communion. The simplest interpretation of the phrase is, that 
in itself it denotes intimate intercourse and union generally, but 
that the idea of religious unity is here suggested by the context 
and especially by the following clause. Many interpreters 
appear to regard the phrases swearing by and swearing to as 
perfectly synonymous. The former act does certainly imply 
the recognition of the deity by whom one swears, especially if 
oaths be regarded (as they are in Scripture) as solemn acts of 
religious worship But the phrase swearing to conveys the 
additional idea of doing homage and acknowledging a sovereign 
by swearing fealty or allegiance to him. This is the only mean- 
ing that the words can bear in 2 Chr. 15 : 14, and in Isai. 45: 
23 the two phrases seem to be very clearly distinguished. The 
act of thus professing the true faith and submitting to the true 
God is ascribed in the verse before us to five towns, or cities. 
What appears to be meant is that five sixths, i. e. a very large 
proportion, shall profess the true religion, while the remaining 
sixth persists in unbelief. It shall be said to one, i. e. one shall 
be addressed as follows, or called by the following name. For 


one town which shall perish in its unbelief five shall profess the 
true faith and swear fealty to Jehovah. 

19. In that day there shall be an altar to Jehovah in the midst 
of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at (or near) its border to Jeho- 
vah. It has been disputed whether we are here to understand 
an altar for sacrifice or an altar to serve as a memorial (Josh. 
22 : 26, 27). It has also been disputed whether the prohibition 
of altars and consecrated pillars (Lev. 26: 1. Deut. 12:5, 16: 
22) was applicable only to the Jews or to Palestine, leaving 
foreign Jews or proselytes at liberty to rear these sacred struc- 
tures as the Patriarchs did of old (Gen. 28 : 18. 35 : 14). The 
necessity of answering these questions is removed by a just view 
of the passage, as predicting the prevalence of the true religion 
and the practice of its rites, in language borrowed from the 
Mosaic or rather from the patriarchal institutions. As we might 
now speak of a missionary pitching his tent at Hebron or at 
Shechem, without intending to describe the precise form of his 
habitation, so the Prophet represents the converts to the true 
faith as erecting an altar and a pillar to the Lord in Egypt, as 
Abraham and Jacob did of old in Canaan. A still more exact 
illustration is afforded by the frequent use among ourselves of 
the word altar to denote the practice of devotion, especially in 
families. There is a double propriety and beauty in the use of 
the word pillar, because while it instantly recalls to mind the 
patriarchal practice, it is at the same time finely descriptive of 
the obelisk, an object so characteristic of Egypt that it may be 
regarded as its emblem. Both the obelisk and the patriarchal 
pillar, being never in the human form, are to be carefully dis- 
tinguished from statues or images, although the latter word is 
sometimes used to represent the Hebrew one in the English 
Version. (See 2 Kings 3:2. 10 : 26. Mic. 5:13.) 

20. And it shall be for a sign and for a testimony to Jehovah of 


Hosts in the land of Egypt, that they shall try to Jehovah firm 
the presence of oppressors, and he will send them a deliverer and * 
mighty one and save them. This shall be a sign and a witness to 
(i. e. with respect to, in behalf of) Jehovah in the land of Egypt, 
viz. that when they cry, he will afford a providential testimony 
in behalf of his own being, presence, and supremacy, by saviig 
those who cry to him. If, as we have seen reason to believe, 
the chapter is a prophecy, not of a single event bat of a great 
progressive change to be wrought in the condition of Egypt by 
the introduction of the true religion, the promise of the verge 
before us must be that when they cried God would send them 
a deliverer, a promise verified not once but often, not only by 
Ptolemy or Alexander, but by others, and in the highest sense 
by Christ himself. In the language of this verse there is as 
obvious allusion to the frequent statement in the book of Judges, 
that the people cried to God and he raised them np deliverers 
who saved them from their oppressors (Judg. 2: 16. 3:9 etc.). 

21. And Jehovah shall be known to Egypt, and Egypt (or the 
Egyptians) shall know Jehovah in that day, and shall serve (with) 
sacrifice and offering, and shall vow a vow to Jehovah and perform 
it This is not the prediction of a new event, but a repetition 
in another form of the preceding promise. What is first de- 
scribed as the knowledge of the true God, is afterwards repre- 
sented as his service, the expressions being borrowed from the 
ancient ritual. If the last clause be literally understood, we 
must either regard it as an unfounded expectation of the Pro- 
phet which was never fulfilled, or suppose that it relates to an 
express violation of the law of Moses, or assume that the ancient 
rites and forms are hereafter to be re-established. On the other 
hand, the figurative explanation is in perfect agreement with 
the usage of both testaments and with the tenor of the prophecy 
itself. Bloody and unbloody sacrifice is here combined with 
vows in order to express the totality of ritual services as a fig- 


Tire for those of a more spiritual nature. The express mention 
of the Egyptians themselves as worshipping Jehovah shows 
that they are also meant in the preceding verse. 

22. And Jehovah shall smite Egypt (or the Egyptians), smiting 
and healing, and they shall return unto Jehovah, and he shall be 
entreated of them and shall heal them. Here again the second 
clause contains no advance upon the first, and the whole verse 
no advance upon the foregoing context, hut an iteration of the 
same idea in another form This verse may indeed he regarded 
as a recapitulation of the whole preceding prophecy, consisting 
as it does of an extended threatening (vs 1-17) followed hy an 
ample promise (vs. 18-21). As if he had said, thus will God 
smite Egypt and then heal it. That great heathen power, with 
respect to which the Jews so often sinned both by undue confi- 
dence and undue dread, was to be broken and reduced ; but in 
exchange for this political decline, and partly as a consequence of 
it, the Egyptians should experience benefits far greater than they 
ever before knew. Thus would Jehovah smite and heal, or smite 
but so as afterwards to heal, which seems to be the force of the 
reduplicated verb. The meaning is not simply that the stroke 
should be followed by healing, nor is it simply that the stroke 
should itself possess a healing virtue : but both ideas seem to 
be included Returning to Jehovah is a common figure for 
repentance and conversion, even in reference to the heathen. 
(See Psalm 22: 27.) 

23. In that day there shall be a highway from Egypt to Assy- 
ria, and Assyria shall come into Egypt and Egypt into Assyria, 
and Egypt (or the Egyptians) shall serve with Assyria. No 
translation will convey the precise form of the original, in which 
the ancestral names are put not only for their descendants but 
for the countries which they occupied. No one, it is probable, 
las ever yet maintained that a road was literally opened between 


Egypt and Assyria, or that Isaiah expected it. All classes of 
interpreters agree that the opening of the highway is a figure 
for easy, free, and intimate communication. This unanimous 
admission of a metaphor in this place not only shows that the 
same mode of interpretation is admissible in the other parts of 
the same prophecy, but makes it highly probable that what is 
said of altar and sacrifices is to be likewise* so understood. 

24. In that day shall Israel be a third with respect to Egypt 
and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth. The meaning 
obviously is that Israel should be one of three or a party to a 
triple union. The idea meant to be conveyed, is not merely 
that of equality in magnitude or power, but also that of intimate 
conjunction, as in the preceding verse. Blessing is here used 
in a comprehensive sense, as denoting at the same time a source 
of blessing, a means of blessing, and an object to be blessed. 

25. Which Jehovah of Hosts has blessed (or with which Jehovah 
of Hosts has blessed it) saying. Blessed be my people Egypt, and 
the work of my hands Assyria, and my heritage (or peculiar 
people) Israel, The perfect union of the three great powers in 
the service of God and the enjoyment of his favour is now ex- 
pressed by a solemn benediction on the three, in which language 
commonly applied to Israel exclusively is extended to Egypt 
and Assyria. The force of the expressions would be much en- 
hanced by the habitual associations of a Jewish reader. It 
arises very much from the surprise excited by the unexpected 
termination of the clauses. Instead of Blessed be my people 
Israel, the formula is Blessed be my people Egypt That the 
work of my hands does not merely mean my creature, or a crea- 
ture perfectly at my disposal, but my creature in a special and 
a spiritual sense, the same in which God is said to be the maker 
or founder of Israel (Deut. 32 : 6. Isai. 43 : 6, 7), is evident 
from this consideration, that the clause would otherwise sty 


g peculiar or distinctive of Assyria, as those before and 

t do of Egypt and Israel In order to express onoe more 

the most emphatic manner the admission of Egypt and 

* to the privileges of the chosen people, he selects three 
commonly bestowed upon the latter exclusively, to wit, 
people, the work of his hands, and his inheritance, and these 
be distributes to the three united powers without discrim- 
i or invidious distinction. As to the application of the 
ley there are three distinct opinions. One is, that the 
et here anticipates a state of peace and international com- 
B between Egypt, Israel, and Assyria in his own times, 
may or may not have been actually realized. Another 
» he predicts what actually did take place under the reign 
sander and the two great powers that succeeded him, 
e Graeco-Syrian and Egyptian monarchies, by which the 
digion was protected and diffused and the way prepared 
» preaching of the gospel. A third is, that Egypt and 

* are here named as the two great heathen powers known 
Jews, whose country lay between them and was often the 
if not the subject of their contests, so that for ages they 
ommonly in league with the one against the other. To 
le these two great belligerent powers as at peace with 
aad one another, was not only to foretell a most surprising 
fcion in the state of the world, but to intimate at least a 
change in the relation of the Jews and the Gentiles. 
he goes still further and describes these representatives 
then ism as received into the covenant and sharing with 
arch of God its most distinctive titles, we have one of the 
it and most striking predictions of the calling of the Gen- 
lat the word of God contains. One advantage of this ez- 
n is that, while it thus extends and elevates the scope of 
ediction, it retains unaltered whatever there may be of 
ipeoific prophecy or of coincidence with history. If Alex- 
ia referred to, and the spread of Judaism under him and 



his successors, and the general pacification of the world and 
progress of refinement, these are so many masterly strokes 
added to the great prophetic picture ; but they cannot be ex- 
tracted from it and made to constitute a picture by themselves. 


About the time of the Assyrian attack on Ashdod, the 
Prophet is directed to walk naked and barefoot as a sign of the 
defeat and captivity of the Egyptians and Ethiopians who were 
at war with Assyria. The first verse fixes the date of this 
symbolical transaction ; the second contains the divine com- 
mand and the record of its execution ; the third and fourth ex- 
plain the meaning of the symbol ; the fifth and sixth predict its 
effect, or rather that of the event which it prefigured. The 
questions which have been raised, as to the date of the composi- 
tion and the fulfilment of the prophecy, will be most conveni- 
ently considered in the course of the detailed interpretation. 

1. In the year of Tartan's coming to Ashdod) in Sargon king 
of Assyria's sending him (i. e. when Sargon king of Assyria 
sent him), and he fought with Ashdod (i. e. besieged it) and took 
it. Ashdod was one of the five cities of the Philistines (Josh. 
11 : 22. 15 : 46. 1 Sam. 5:1), considered on account of its 
strong fortifications (from which its name is supposed to be 
derived) the key of Egypt, and therefore frequently attacked in 
the wars between Egypt and Assyria. According to Herodo- 
tus, Psammetichus besieged it twenty-nine years. This, if not 
an exaggeration, is the longest siege in history, and probably 
took place after what is here recorded, to recover Ashdod from 
Assyria. Its site is marked by a village still called Esdtid 


(Robinson's Palestine II. 368). The name of Sargon nowhere 
else occurs. Tartan appears again as a general under Sen- 
nacherib (2 Kings 18 : 17). From this some infer that Sargon 
and Sennacherib are one and the same person. Others identify 
Sargon with Esarhaddon, or with Shalmaneser. All these sup- 
positions are less probable than the obvious one, that Sargon 
was a king of Assyria mentioned only here, because his reign 
was very short, and this was the only occurrence that brought 
him into contact with the Jews. That he was not the imme- 
diate successor of Sennacherib, is clear from ch. 37 : 38, and 
from the fact which seems to be implied in 2 Chr. 32 : 21, that 
Tartan perished in the great catastrophe. The most plausible 
hypothesis, and that now commonly adopted, is that he reigned 
three or four years between Shalmaneser and Sennacherib. It 
is disputed whether in the year of Tartan's coming means before 
or after that occurrence. The truth is, it means neither, but 
leaves that question undetermined, or at most to be determined 
by the context. 

2. At that time spake Jehovah by the hand of Isaiah the son of 
Amoz, saying, Go, and thou shalt open (L e. loose) the sackcloth 
from upon thy loins, and thy shoe thou shalt pull off from upon thy 
foot. And he did so, going naked and bcvrefoot. The word naked 
is used to express partial denudation in all languages. As 
biblical examples, may be cited 1 Sam. 19 : 24. 2 Sam. 6 : 20. 
Amos 2:16. John 21 : 7. In the case before us, we may either 
suppose that the sackcloth was an upper garment which he 
threw entirely off, or an inner garment .which he opened by un- 
girding it, or a girdle itself which he loosened and perhaps re- 
moved. Sackcloth was a common mourning dress, and some 
suppose that Isaiah was now wearing it in token of his grief 
for the exile of the ten tribes. Others understand it as an 
official or ascetic dress worn by the Prophets (Zech. 13 : 4), as 
fqr instance by Elijah (2 Kings 1 : 8) and by John the Baptist 


(Matt 3 : 4). Others again suppose that it is mentioned as a 
eheap coarse dress worn by the Prophet in common with the 
humbler class of people. By the hand denotes ministerial 
agency or intervention, and is often used in reference to com* 
munications made to the people through the prophets. (Ex. 
4:13. 1 Sam. 16 : 20. Jer. 37 : 2.) So in this case, the divine 
communication was really addressed to the people, though the 
words immediately ensuing are addressed to the Prophet him- 
self. It is not necessary to suppose that the phrase has exclu- 
sive reference to the symbolical action. What was said to the 
Prophet was obviously said through him to the people. 

3. And Jehovah said. As my servant Isaiah hath gone naked 
and barefoot three years a sign and symbol concerning Egypt and 
concerning Ethiopia. Here begins the divine explanation of 
the symbolical act before commanded. The design of this 
transaction was to draw attention by exciting surprise. In the 
prophecies belonging to the reign of Hezekiah, Egypt and 
Ethiopia are frequently combined, either because they were in 
close alliance, or because an Ethiopian dynasty then reigned 
in Upper Egypt. The Prophet probably exposed himself but 
once in the way described, after which he continued to be a 
sign and wonder for three years, i. e. till the fulfilment of the 
prophecy. The three years have been variously understood, 
as the duration of the siege of Ashdod, as the duration of the 
exile threatened in the next verse, and as the interval which 
should elapse between the prophecy and its fulfilment. Of 
these three hypotheses the second is the least probable, while 
the first and third may be combined. 

4. So shall the king of Assyria lead the captivity (i. e. the cap- 
tives) of Egypt and the exiles of Ethiopia, young and old, naked 
and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, the nakedness (or dis- 
grace) of Egypt This verse completes the comparison began 


in that before it. It is also clear from a comparison of the 
type and antitype, that the nakedness of y. 2 was a partial 
one, since captives were not commonly reduced to a state of 
absolute nudity. This is confirmed by the addition of the 
word barefoot in both cases, which would be. superfluous if 
Tiaked had its strictest sense. Connected as Egypt and Ethio- 
pia were in fact and in the foregoing context, either name in- 
cludes the other. The King of Assyria here meant is either 
Sennacherib or Sargon himself. Some suppose this prediction 
to have been fulfilled in the conquest of No-Ammon (L e. 
Diospolis or Thebes) mentioned in Nah. 3 : 8 as a recent event. 
How long beforehand the prediction was uttered, is a question 
of small moment and one which cannot be decided. There is 
no ground, however, for the supposition that the interval was 
so short as to convert the prophecy into a mere conjecture or 
an act of sagacious forecast. 

5. And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their ex- 
pectation and of Egypt their boast This is the effect to be pro- 
duced by the catastrophe just threatened. The full sense of 
the first verb is that they shall be confounded, filled with con- 
sternation, at the fate of those in whom they trusted for de- 
liverance. The meaning of the verse is, that they who had re- 
lied on Egypt and its ally Ethiopia for aid against Assyria, 
whether Jews or Philistines or both, should be confounded at 
beholding Egypt and Ethiopia themselves subdued. 

6. And the inhabitant of this isle (or coast) shall say in that 
day, Behold j thus (or such) is our expectation, whither we fled for 
help, to be delivered from the presence of the king of Assyria. And 
how shall we (ourselves) escape 1 The disappointment described 
in the foregoing verse is now expressed by those who felt it. 
The argument is one a fortiori. If the protectors were sub- 
dued, what must become of the protected ? The pronoun in 


the last clause is emphatic, as it usually is when not essential to 
the sense. The Hebrew word for island has no exact equivalent 
in English. Three distinct shades or gradations of meaning 
seem to he clearly marked in usage. The first is that of land is 
opposed to water ; the second that of coast as opposed to inland ; 
the third that of island as opposed to mainland. The last, 
although commonly expressed in most translations, is perhaps 
the least frequent of the three. The word here denotes the 
south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean, called this coast, in 
order to distinguish it from that coast, viz. Ethiopia and Egypt, 
which had just before been mentioned. As to the extent of 
country meant to be included, nothing of course can be deter- 
mined from the word itself, which is designedly indefinite. Thus 
or such is our expectation, i. e. this is the end of it, you see what has 
become of it, you see the fate of that to which we looked for help ; 
how then can we ourselves be delivered or escape ? See a similar 
expression 2 Kings 10:4. 


As three of the verses of this chapter begin with the word 
burden (vs. 1, 11, 13), it is now commonly supposed to consist 
of three distinct prophecies. Taking the language in its obvi- 
ous meaning and excluding all gratuitous assumptions, we 
shall be constrained to look upon the first of these divisions (vs. 
1-10) as one of the most striking instances of strict agreement 
between prophecy and history. As to the remainder of the 
chapter, while it cannot be denied that the connection of the 
parts, and the meaning of each in itself, are exceedingly ob- 
scure, it may be doubted whether there is sufficient ground far 


their entire separation as distinct and independent prophecies. 
The extreme brevity, especially of the second part (vs. 11, 12), 
makes this very dubious, and the doubt is strengthened by the 
recurrence of the figure of a watchman in v. 11. In the case 
before us, as in ch. 14 : 28, it is safer to assume the unity of 
the composition than rashly to dismember it However diffi- 
cult it may be to determine the connection of these parts, they 
may safely be regarded as composing one obscure but continu- 
ous prediction. This is the less improbable because they can 
all be brought into connection, if not unity, by simply supposing 
that the tribes or races, to which vs. 11-17 relate, were sharers 
with the Jews in the Babylonian tyranny, and therefore inter- 
ested in its downfall. This hypothesis, to is true, is not sus- 
ceptible of demonstration ; but it is strongly recommended by 
the very fact that it explains the juxtaposition of these proph- 
ecies, or rather entitles them to be considered one. The first 
part of the prophecy opens with an emphatic intimation of its 
alarming character, vs. 1-4. We have then a graphic represen- 
tation of the march of the Medes and Persians upon Babylon, 
vs. 5-9. This is followed by a hint of the effect which this event 
would have upon the people of Jehovah, v. 10. The remainder 
of the chapter represents the neighboring nations as involved 
in the same sufferings with the Jews, but without any consola- 
tory promise of deliverance, vs. 11-17. 

1. The burden of the desert of the sea. Like whirlwinds in the 
south, as to rushing (or driving), from the wilderness it comes, from 
a terrible land. Most interpreters are agreed that the phrase 
desert oftMsea is an enigmatical description of Babylonia as a 
great plain (Gen. 11:1. Isai. 23 : 13), watered by a great river 
which, like the Nile (ch. 19 : 5), is sometimes called a sea (ch. 
27 : 1). This designation was the more appropriate because 
the plain of Babylon, according to Herodotus, was often over- 
sowed before Semiramis took measures to prevent it, and 


an ancient writer says expressly that it then had the appearance 
of a sea. The threatened danger is compared to the approach of 
a tempest from the south, i. e. from the great Arabian desert, in 
which quarter the most violent winds are elsewhere represented 
as prevailing. 

2. A hard vision — it is revealed to me — Me deceiver deceiving 
and the spoiler spoiling — go up, oh Elam — besiege, oh Media — all 
sighing (or all its sighing) I have made to cease. The first phrase 
means a vision of severe and awful judgments. If the next 
clause be applied to Cyrus, one of the terms may describe the 
stratagems of war, as the other does its violence This is 
the more natural as Babylon was actually taken by stratagem. 
Go up, i. e. against Babylon, either in reference to its lofty de- 
fences (ch. 26 : 5), or according to a more general military 
usage of the phrase. (See above, ch. 7 : 1.) The Medes and 
Persians were united under Cyrus, but the latter are here 
named first, as some think, because they were now in the as- 

3. Therefore my loins are filled with pain ; pangs have seized 
me like the pangs of a travailing (woman) ; I writhe (or am 
convulsed) from hearing ; I am shocked (or agitated) from seeing. 
Some regard these as the words of a captive Jew, or of a 
Babylonian ; but there is no objection to explaining them as 
expressive of the Prophet's own emotions, a very common 
method of enhancing the description even of deserved and 
righteous judgments. 

4. My heart wanders (reels, or is bewildered) ; horror appals 
me ; the twilight (night or evening) of my pleasure (or desire) he 
has put for (or converted into) fear (or trembling) for me. There 
are two interpretations of the last clause. One supposes it to 
mean that the night desired as a time of rest is changed into a 


time of terror ; the other, that a night of festivity is changed 
into a time of terror. That the court was revelling when Cyrus 
took the city, is stated in the general by Herodotus and Xeno- 
phon, and in full detail by Daniel That the two first, how- 
ever, did not derive their information from the Prophet, may 
be inferred from their not mentioning the writing on the wall, 
which would have seemed incredible to neither of them. 

5. Set the table, spread the cloth, eat, drink, arise ye chiefs, anoint 
the shield ! The Hebrew verbs are not imperatives but infini- 
tives, here used in the first clause for the historical tense in 
order to give brevity, rapidity, and life to the description. For 
the same purpose the English imperative may be employed, as 
the simplest form of the verb and unencumbered with the per- 
sonal pronouns. The sense, however, is that while the table 
is set etc, the alarm is given. The anointing of the shield is 
supposed by some to be a means of preserving it or of repelling 
missiles from its surface, by others simply a means of cleansing 
and perhaps adorning it. Both agree that it is here poetically 
used to express the idea of arming or preparing for battle. 
There are two interpretations of the last clause. One makes it 
an address by Jehovah or the Prophet to the Medes and Per- 
sians, as in the last clause of v. 2 ; the other a sudden alarm 
to the Babylonians at their feast. Both explanations, but 
especially the last, seem to present a further allusion to the 
surprise of the king and court by Cyrus. 

6. For thus saith the Lord to me : Go set (or cause to stand) 
the watchman (or sentinel) ; that which he sees let him tell. In- 
stead of simply predicting or describing the approach of the 
enemy, the Prophet introduces an ideal watchman, as announ- 
cing what he actually sees. 

7. And should he see cavalry — a pair (or pairs of horsemen) — 


ass-riders — camel-riders — then shall he hearken with hearkening * 
great hearkening (i. e. listen attentively). This construction of 
the sentence supposes the divine instructions to be still con- 
tinued. .This verse contains the order and the ninth Its execu- 
tion, while the eighth, as a preface to the latter, is exactly in 
Us proper place. It is a slight but obvious coincidence of 
prophecy and history that Xenophon represents the Persians 
advancing two by two. 

8. And he cries — a lion — on the watch-tower ', Lord, lam stand- 
ing always by day, and on my ward (or place of observation) I 
am stationed all the nights (i. e. all night, or every night, or both). 
That the setting of the watch is an ideal process, seems to be 
intimated by the word Lord, one of the divine names (not «y 
lord or sir), and also by the unremitted vigilance to which he 
here lays claim. According to the usual interpretation, these 
are the words of the delegated watchman, announcing that he 
is at his post and will remain there and announce whatever he 
may see. The word lion forms no part of the sentinel's report, 
but is rather a description of the way in which he makes it. 
The true sense of the words is given in a paraphrase in Rev. 
1 : 3, he cried with a loud voice as when a lion roareth. As to 
the syntax, we may either supply as before a lion, of which ellipsis 
there are some examples, or still more simply read the lion cries, 
thus converting the simile into a metaphor. The first con- 
struction agrees best however with the masoretic accents. 

9. And behold, this comes (or this is what is coming), mounted 
men, pairs of horsemen. And he answers (i. e speaks again) and 
says, Fallen, fallen, is Babylon, and all the images of her gods he 
has broken (or crushed) to the earth. The last verb is indefinitely 
construed, but obviously refers to the enemy as the instrument 
of Babylon's destruction, rather than to God as the efficient 
cause. The description given in v. 7 is abbreviated here, be- 


cause so much was to be added. Still the correspondence is 
sufficiently exact. The structure of the passage is highly dra- 
matic. In the sixth verse, the prophet is commanded to set a 
watch. In the seventh, the sentinel is ordered to look out for 
an army of men, mounted on horses, camels, and asses. In the 
eighth, he reports himself as being at his post. In the ninth, 
he sees the very army which had been described approaching. 
Answer is used, both in Greek and Hebrew, for the resdmption 
of discourse by the same speaker, especially after an interval. 
It is here equivalent to spoke again. During the interval im- 
plied, the city is supposed to have been taken, so that when 
the watchman speaks again, it is to say that Babylon is fallen. 
The omission of all the intermediate details, for the purpose of 
bringing the extremes together, is a masterly stroke of poetical 
description, which would never have occurred to an inferior 
writer. The allusion to idols in the last clause is not intended 
merely to remind us that the conquest was a triumph of the 
true God over false ones, but to bring into view the well-known 
aversion of the Persians to all images. Herodotus says they 
not only thought it unlawful to use images, but imputed folly 
to those who did it. Here is another incidental but remarkable 
coincidence of prophecy even with profane history. 

10. Oh my threshing and the son of my threshing-floor ! What 
I have heard from Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, I have told 
you. This part of the prophecy closes with an apostrophe, 
showing at once by whose power and for whose sake the down- 
mil of Babylon was to be brought about. Threshing here means 
that which is threshed, and is synonymous with the following 
phrase, son of the threshing-floor, i. e. (according to the oriental 
idiom which uses son to signify almost any relation) threshed 
grain. The comparison of severe oppression or affliction to 
threshing is a common one, and though the terms here used 
are scarcely intelligible when literally rendered into English, 


it is dear that they mean, oh my oppressed and afflicted people, 
and most therefore be addressed not to the Babylonians bat 
the Jews, to whom the fall of Babylon would bring deliverance, 
and for whose consolation this prediction was originally uttered. 
The last clause assures them that their own God had sent this 
message to them. 

1 1. The burden of Dumah. To me (one is) calling from Seir, 
Watchman, what of the night f Watchman, what of the night % 
It has been already stated that most interpreters regard this 
and the next verse as an ind pendent prophecy, but that the 
use of the word burden is an insufficient reason, while the ex- 
treme brevity of the passage, and the recurrence of the figure 
of a sentinel or watchman, seem to indicate that it is a contin- 
uation of what goes before, although a new subject is here intro- 
duced. Of Dumah there are two interpretations. Some un- 
derstand it as the name of an Arabian tribe descended from 
Ishmael (Gen. 25 : 1 4. 1 Chr. 1 : 30), or of a place belonging to 
that tribe, perhaps the same now called Dumah Eljandil on the 
confines of Arabia and Syria. In thai case, Seir, which lay 
between Judah and the desert of Arabia, is mentioned merely 
to denote the quarter whence the sound proceeded. But as 
Seir was itself the residence of the Edomites or children of 
Esau, others explain Dumah as a variation of the name Edom, 
intended at the same time to suggest the idea of silence, solitude, 
and desolation. In favour of the first interpretation is the men- 
tion of Arabia and of certain Arabian tribes in the following 
verses. But even Edom might be said to form part of Arabia 
The greater importance of Edom and the frequency with which 
it is mentioned in the prophets, especially as an object of divine 
displeasure, also recommend this exegetical hypothesis. The 
Edomites were long subject to Israel, and might therefore 
naturally take part in its sufferings from Babylonian tyranny. 
The English Version seems to mean, what have you to say 


of the night? Interpreters are commonly agreed, however, 
that the question is, what part of the night is it, equivalent 
to our question, what o'clock? This may have been a cus- 
tomary method of interrogating watchmen. Night is a common 
metaphor to represent calamity, as daybreak does relief from it. 
Some regard this as a taunting inquiry addressed to Judah by 
his heathen neighbours. It is much more natural, however, to 
explain it as an expression of anxiety arising from a personal 
concern in the result 

12. The watchman says, Morning comes and also night ; if ye 
will inquire, inquire; return, come. Most writers understand 
this as relating to different subjects, morning comes (to one) 
and night (to another) ; which would seem to mean that while 
the Jewish night was about to be dispelled, that of Edom or Ara- 
bia should still continue. But connected as the words are with 
the foregoing prophecy, it is far more natural to understand 
them as referring to the Babylonian conquest of Judea and the 
neighbouring countries. The last clause intimates that the 
event was still uncertain. If you wish to know you must inquire 
again ; you are come too soon ; the time of your deliverance is 
not at hand ; return or come again. On any hypothesis, how- 
ever, these two verses still remain enigmatical and doubtful 
in their meaning. 

13. The burden of Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye 
lodge, oh ye caravans of Dedanim. The Prophet here passes 
from Edom to Arabia, or from one Arabian tribe or district to 
another. The answer in v. 12 is here explained. The country 
was to be in such a state that the caravans which usually trav- 
elled undisturbed would be obliged to leave the public road and 
pass the night among the bushes or thickets. Forests properly 
so called do not exist in the Arabian desert. The Dedanim are 
mentioned elsewhere in connection with Edom and Teman ( Jer. 


49 : 8. Ez. 25 : 13), to whom they were probably contiguous. 
Their precise situation is the less important as they are not the 
subjects of the prophecy, but spoken of as strangers passing 
through, the interruption of whose journey is meutioned as a 
proof of the condition of the country. 

14. To meet the thirsty they bring water, the inhabitants of the 
land of Tetna ; with his bread they prevent (i. e. meet or antici- 
pate) the fugitive. The men of Tema, another Arabian tribe, 
also engaged in trade (Jer. 25 : 23. Job 6 : 19), are described 
as bringing food and drink, not to the Dedanim mentioned in 
v. 13, but to the people of the wasted country. His bread is 
rendered in the English Version as a collective (their bread), 
referring to the men of Tema ; but the pronoun relates rather 
to the fugitive himself, and the whole phrase means his portion 
of food, the food necessary for him, his daily bread. 

15. Because (or when) from the presence of swords they fled) 
from the presence of a drawn sword and from the presence of a 
bended bow, and from the presence of a weight of war. This verse 
describes them as not only plundered but pursued by a blood- 
thirsty enemy. 

16. For thus saith the Lord to me, In yet a year (or in a year 
longer) like the years of a hireling (i. e. strictly computed) shall 
fail (or cease) all the glory of Kedar. This verse seems to fix a 
time for the fulfilment of the foregoing prophecy. Here, as in 
chap. 17:3, glory comprehends all that constitutes the dignity 
or strength of a people. On the meaning of the phrase, years 
of a hireling, see above, ch. 16: 14. Kedar was the second son 
of Ishmael (Gen. 25 : 13). The name is here put either for an 
Arab tribe or for Arabia in general (Isai. 42 : 1 1. 60 : 7. Ez 27: 
21). The Rabbins call the Arabic the language of Kedar. The 
chronological specification in this verse makes it necessary either 


to assume a later writer than Isaiah, as some do in ch. 16:14; 
or a terminus a quo posterior to his time, as if he had said, within 
a year after something else before predicted ; or an abrupt 
recurrence from the days of Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus to those 
of Hezekiah. The last would be wholly in accordance with the 
usage of the prophets ; but the best solution seems to be afford- 
ed by the second hypothesis. The sense will then be that the 
Arabians who suffered with the Jews, so far from sharing their 
deliverance, should within a year after that event be entirely 
destroyed. At the same time, due allowance should be made 
for diversity of judgment in a case so doubtful. 

1 7. And the remnant of the number of bows (or archers), the mighty 
men (or heroes) of the children of Kedar, shall be few (or become few), 
for Jehovah God of Israel hath spoken it. We read elsewhere of 
the archery of Ishmael (Gen. 21 : 20) and Kedar (Ps. 120 : 4). 
The last clause intimates that God, as the God of Israel, has a 
quarrel with Kedar, and at the same time that his power and 
omniscience will secure the fulfilment of the threatening. It 
is not impossible that future discoveries may yet throw light 
upon these brief and obscure prophecies. 


This chapter naturally falls into two parts. The first de- 
scribes the conduct of the people of Jerusalem during a siege, 
vs. 1-14. The second predicts the removal of Shebna from his 
post as treasurer or steward of the royal household, vs. 1 5-25. 
The whole may be described as a prophecy against the people 
of Jerusalem in general, and against Shebna in particular, con- 
sidered as their leader and example. 


It has been disputed whether the description in the first part 
of this chapter was intended to apply to the siege of Jerusalem 
by Sennacherib, or by Esarbaddon in the reign of Manasseb, 
or by Nebuchadnezzar, or by Titus. If the whole must be ap- 
plied to one specific point of time, it is probably the taking of 
Jerusalem by the king of Assyria in the days of Manasseb, 
(2 Chron. 33 : 11), when the latter was himself carried captive 
with his chief men, and Shebna possibly among the rest. The 
choice seems to lie between this hypothesis and that of a generic 
prediction, a prophetic picture of the conduct of the Jews in a 
certain conjuncture of affairs which happened more than once, 
particular strokes of the description being drawn from different 
memorable sieges, and especially from those of Sennacherib and 

1 . The burden of the Valley of Visum. What (is) to thee (what 
hast thou ? or what aileth thee ?) that thou art wholly (literally 
the whole of thee) gone up on the house-tops ? By the valley of 
vision we are to understand Jerusalem, as being surrounded 
by hills with valleys between them. There is allusion to 
Jerusalem as the seat of revelation, the abode of the prophets, 
and the place where God's presence was manifested. The 
oriental roofs are flat and used for various purposes. The 
ascent here mentioned is probably used as a lively description 
of an oriental city in commotion, without auy intention to in- 
timate as yet the cause or the occasion, just as we might say 
that the streets of our own cities were full of people, whether 
the concourse were occasioned by grief, joy, fear, or any other 
cause. Some suppose the Prophet to inquire as a stranger what 
is the matter ; but he seems rather to express disapprobation 
of the stir which he describes. 

2. Full of stirs, a noisy town, a joyous city, thy slain are net 
slain with the sword nor dead in battle. The first clause is com- 


tamly explained by the older writers as descriptive of the 
Commotion and alarm occasioned by the enemy's approach. 
The latest writers are agreed in making it descriptive of the 
opposite condition of joyous excitement, frivolous gayety, and 
reckless indifference, described in v. 13. The expression thy 
slain are not slain with the sword cannot mean that none were 
slain, but necessarily implies mortality of another kind The 
allusion is supposed by some to be to pestilence, by others to 
famine, such as prevailed in the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchad- 
nezzar and also by the Romans. As neither is specified, the words 
may be more generally understood as describing all kinds of 
mortality incident to sieges, excepting that of actual warfare. 

3. All thy chiefs fied together— from the bow — they were bound 
— all that were found of thee were bound together-— from afar they 
fied. This verie describes the people as flying from the enemy, 
and being nevertheless taken. We may either read, they are 
bound (i. e made prisoners) by the bow (i. e. the archers, as light- 
armed troops), or without the bow (i. e. not in battle, as the slain 
were not slain with the sword) ; or it may mean without resist- 
ance, without drawing a bow. Some understand it to mean, 
they are restrained (by fear) from (using) the bow. All that were 
found of thee may be in antithesis to thy chiefs, as if he had said, 
not only thy chiefs but ail the rest Some understand this as 
describing the voluntary confinement of the people in Jerusa- 
lem during a siege ; others apply it to their vain endeavours to 
escape from its privations and dangers. It is best to give the 
verse its largest meaning as descriptive of the hardships and 
concomitant evils, not of one siege merely but of sieges in 

4. Therefore I said (or say), Look away from me; let me be 
bitter in weeping (or weep bitterly) ; try not to comfort me for the 
deflation of the daughter of my people. These are not the word* 



of Jerusalem in answer to the question in v. 1, but those of the 
Prophet expressing his sympathy with the sufferings which he 
foresees and foretells, as in ch. 16 : 11. The daughter of *J 
people means the people itself, poetically represented as a woman, 
and affectionately spoken of as a daughter. 

5. For there is a day of confusion and trampling and perplex- 
ity to the Lord Jehovah of Hosts in the valley of vision — breaking 
the wall and crying to the mountain. He has a day i. e. he has 
it appointed, or has it in reserve. (See above, ch. 2 : 12.) 
Trampling does not refer to the treading down of the fields and 
gardens, but of men in battle, or at least in a general commo- 
tion and confusion. To the mountain are not the words of the 
cry, but its direction. The mountain is not Jerusalem or Zion 
as the residence of God, but the mountains round about Jeru- 
salem (Ps. 125 : 1.) The meaning is not that the people are 
heard crying on their way to the mountain, but rather that 
their cries are reverberated from it. The whole verse is a vivid 
poetical description of the confusion of a siege. 

6. And Elam bare a quiver, with chariots, men (i. e. infantry), 
horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield. Elam was a province of 
Persia, often put for the whole country. Its people were cele- 
brated archers. The simplest and most natural construction 
seems to be that which supposes three kinds of troops to be 
here enumerated ; cavalry, infantry, and men in chariots. Kir 
is now agreed to be identical with Kvqoq, the name of a river 
rising in the Caucasus and emptying into the Caspian sea, from 
which Georgia (Girgistan) is supposed to derive its name. Kir 
was subject to Assyria in the time of Isaiah, as appears from 
the fact thas it was one of the regions to which the exiles of the 
ten tribes were transported. It may here be put for Media, as 
Elam is for Persia. The uncovering of the shield has reference 
to the leathern cases used to protect the shield or keep it bright 


The removal of these denotes preparation for battle. The an- 
cient versions and some modern writers translate the clause, 
the shield leaves the wall bare by being taken down from the 
place where it hung, or the enemy deprives the wall of its shield 
L e. its defenders. Some even suppose an allusion to the testudo 
or covered way of shields, under which the Roman soldiers used 
to advance to the walls of a besieged town. The verbs are in 
the past tense, which proves nothing however as to the date of 
the events described. 

7. And it came to pass (that) the choice of thy valleys (thy 
choicest valleys) were full of chariots^ and the horsemen dreto up 
(or took up a position) towards the gate. The Prophet sees 
something which he did not see before. He had seen the 
chariots and horsemen coming ; but now he sees the valleys 
around full of them. The future form adopted by some ver- 
sions is entirely unauthorized. Whatever be the real date of 
the events described, the Prophet evidently meant to speak of 
them as past or present, and we have neither right nor reason 
to depart from his chosen form of expression. The address is 
to Jerusalem. The valleys are mentioned as the only places 
where the cavalry or chariots could be useful or could act at 
all. As the only level approach to Jerusalem is on the north, 
that quarter may be specially intended, and the gate may be a 
gate on that side of the city. 

8. And he removed the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in 
that day to the armour of the house of the forest. The first verb, 
which some connect with the enemy and others with Jehovah 
understood, is really indefinite and may be resolved into an 
English passive, the covering was removed. This expression 
has been variously explained. The analogous expression of 
taking away the veil from the heart (2 Cor. 3:15, 16), and 
the immediate mention of the measures used for the defence 


of the city, are perhaps decisive in favour of explaining th* 
words to mean that the Jews' own eyes were opened. It is 
best to understand here an abrupt apostrophe to Judah, a figure 
of perpetual occurrence in Isaiah. House of the forest is the 
designation of a house built by Solomon, and elsewhere called 
the house of the forest of Lebanon, because erected on that 
mountain, as some writers think, but according to the common 
opinion, because built of cedar-wood from Lebanon. This house 
is commonly supposed to have been either intended for an 
arsenal by Solomon himself, or converted into one by some of 
his successors, and to be spoken of in Neh. 3 : 19. Looking to 
this arsenal implies dependence on its stores as the best means 
of defence against the enemy, unless we understand the words 
to signify inspection, which agrees well with what follows, but is 
not sufficiently sustained by the usage of the verb and preposi- 
tion. In that day seems to mean at length, i. e. when made 
aware of their danger. 

9. And the breaches of the city of David ye saw, thai they wen 
many, and ye gathered the waters of the lower pool. The breaches 
meant are not those made by the enemy in the siege here de- 
scribed, but those caused by previous neglect and decay. The 
city of David may be either taken as a poetical name for Jeru- 
salem at large, or in its strict sense as denoting the upper town 
upon Mount Zion, which was surrounded by a wall of its own, 
and c tiled the city of David because he took it from the Jebu- 
sites and afterwards resided there. Ye saw may either mean, 
ye saw them for the first time, at length became aware of then, 
or, ye looked at them, examined them, with a view to their re- 
pair. The last is more probably implied than expressed. The 
last clause describes a measure of defence peculiarly important 
at Jerusalem where there are very few perennial springs. This 
precaution (as well as the one previously hinted at) was actually 
taken by Hezekiah in the prospect of Sennacherib's approach 


(2 Chr. 32 : 4), and has perhaps been repeated in every siege 
of any length which Jerusalem has since ezpeiienced. The 
lower pool is probably the tank or reservoir still in existence in 
the valley of Hinnom opposite the western side of Mount Zion. 
This name, whioh occurs only here, has reference to the upper 
pool higher up in the same valley near the Jaffa gate. (See 
above, ch. 7 : 3. Compare Robinson's Palestine, I. 483-487.) 

10. And the houses of Jerusalem ye numbered, and ye pulled down 
the houses to repair (rebuild or fortify) the wall. The numbering 
of the houses probably has reference, not to the levying of men 
or of a tax, but to the measure mentioned in the last clause, for 
the purpose of determining what houses could be spared, and 
perhaps of estimating the expense. The houses are destroyed, 
not merely to make room for new erections, but to furnish 
materials. Ancient Jerusalem, like that of our day, was built 
of stone. 

1 1. And a reservoir ye made between the two walls (or the double 
wall) for the waters of the old pool, and ye did not look to the maker 
of it, and the former of it ye did not see. The reference is prob- 
ably to a wall built out from that of the city and returning to 
it, so as to enclose the tank or reservoir here mentioned. As 
this was a temporary measure, perhaps often repeated, there is 
no need of tracing it in other parts of history or in the present 
condition of Jerusalem. It is altogether probable, however, 
that the old pool here mentioned is the same with the upper pool 
of ch. 7 : 3. Some have identified it with the lower pool of the 
ninth verse, but this would hardly have been introduced so soon 
by another name. The last clause shows that the fault, with 
which the people of Jerusalem were chargeable, was not that 
of guarding themselves against attack, but that of relying upon 
human defences, without regard to God. The verbs look and 
see are evidently used in allusion to the last clause of v. 8 and 


the first of v. 9. They looked to the arsenal bat not to God. 
This seems to pat the clause before as in antithesis to the whole 
foregoing context from v. 8. Maker and former are not distinc- 
tive terms referring to God's purpose or decree on one hand, 
and the execution of it on the other, bat poetical equivalents 
both denoting the efficient cause. 

12. And the Lord Jehovah of Hosts called in that day to weeping 
and to mourning and to baldness and to girding sackcloth. The 
meaning is not that he called or summoned grief to come, bat 
that he called on men to mourn, not only by his providence, 
but by his word through the prophets. By baldness we may 
either understand the tearing of the hair, or the shaving of the 
head, or both, as customary signs of grief The last phrase, 
rendered in the English Bible girding with sackcloth, does not 
mean girding up the other garments with a sackcloth girdle, but 
girding the body with a sackcloth dress, or girding on i. e. wear- 
ing sackcloth. The providential call to mourning here referred 
to must be the siege before described. 

13. And behold mirth and jollity, slaying of oxen and killing cf 
sheep, eating of flesh and drinking of wine ; eat and drink, for to- 
morrow we die. This verse presents the contrast of their actual 
behaviour with that to which God called them by his providence. 
The common version, let us eat and drink, is perfectly correct as 
to sense, but needlessly departs from the peculiar and expres- 
sive form of the original. I have substituted eat and drink, not 
as imperatives, but as the simplest forms of the English verbs. 
(See above, oh. 21 : 5.) To eat and to drink might be considered 
more exact, but would not exhibit the compression and brevilo* 
quenoe of the original. It has been disputed whether these last 
words are expressive of contemptuous incredulity or of a desper- 
ate determination to spend the residue of life in pleasure. It 
is by no means clear that these two feelings are exclusive of 


each other, since the same man might express his disbelief of 
the threatening, and his resolution, if it should prove true, to 
die in the enjoyment of his favourite indulgences. At all events, 
there can be no need of restricting the full import of the lan- 
guage, as adapted to express both states of mind, in different 
persons, if not in the same. 

14. And Jehovah of Hosts revealed himself in my ears (i. e. made 
a revelation to me, saying) If this iniquity shall be forgiven you 
p. e. it certainly shall not be forgiven you) until you die. The 
conditional form of expression, so far from expressing doubt or 
contingency, adds to the following declaration the solemnity of 
an oath. What is said is also sworn, so that by two immutable 
things in which it is impossible for God to lie, the truth of the 
threatening may be confirmed. On the elliptical formula of 
swearing, see above ch. 5 : 9. This iniquity of course means the 
presumptuous contempt of God's messages and providential 
warnings, with which the people had been charged in the pre- 
ceding verse. This offence is here treated as the sin against 
the Holy Ghost is in the New Testament, and is indeed very 
much of the same nature. The word translated shall be for- 
given strictly means shall be atoned for or expiated. Until you 
die is equivalent to ever, the impossibility of expiation afterwards 
being assumed. This use of until is common in all languages. 
1 As long as you live you shall not be forgiven 1 is equivalent to 
saying ' you shall never be forgiven. 1 

15. Thus said the Lord Jehovah of Hosts, Go, go in to this treas- 
urer (or steward, or chamberlain), to Shebna who (is) over the 
house. From the people in general the threatening now passes 
to an individual, perhaps because he was particularly guilty of 
the crime alleged, and by his influence the means of leading 
others astray likewise. Some of the ancient versions give to 
house here the sense of temple or the house of God, and infer 


that Shebna, if not High Priest or a Priest at all, was at least 
the treasurer of the temple. But the phrase here used is no- 
where else employed in reference to the temple, whereas it re- 
peatedly occurs as the description of an officer of state or of the 
royal household, a major-domo, chamberlain, or steward. As 
the modern distinction between state and household officers is 
not an ancient or an oriental one, it is not unlikely that the 
functionary thus described, like the medieval moires du palais, 
was in fact prime- minister. This would account for the influence 
tacitly ascribed to Shebna in this chapter, as well as for his 
being made the subject of a prophecy. The phrase this treasurer 
may either be expressive of disapprobation or contempt, or sim- 
ply designate the man as well known to the Prophet and his 
readers. These familiar allusions to things and persons now 
forgotten, while they add to the obscurity of the passage, furnish 
an incidental proof of its antiquity and genuineness. Go ta, 
i. e. into Shebna's house, or into the sepulchre which he was pre- 
paring, and in which some suppose him to have been accosted 
by the Prophet. 

16. What hast thou here, and whom hast thou here, that thou 
hast hewn thee here a sepulchre ? Hewing on high his sepulchre, 
graving in the rock a habitation for himself I The negation implied 
in the interrogation is not that he had none to protect and aid 
him, or that none of his kindred should be buried there because 
they should be banished with him, but rather that he had none 
buried there before him ; it was not his birth-place or the home 
of his fathers. What interest, what part or lot, what personal 
or hereditary claim, hast thou in Judah ? Here then refers not 
to the sepulchre, but to Jerusalem. The foreign form of the 
name Shebna, which occurs only in the history of Hezekiah, and 
for which no satisfactory Hebrew etymology has been proposed, 
seems to confirm this explanation of the first clause as repre- 
senting him to be a foreigner, perhaps a heathen. Another 


oonfirmation is afforded by the otherwise unimportant circum- 
stance, that the name of Shebna's father is nowhere added to 
his own, as in the case of Eliakim and Joah (v. 20. ch. 36 : 3). 
These seem to be sufficient reasons for concluding that the 
Prophet is directed to upbraid him, not with seeking to be 
buried in the royal sepulchres although of mean extraction, but 
with making provision for himself and his posterity in a land 
to which he was an alien, and from whioh he was so soon to be 
expelled. The Prophet, after putting to him the prescribed 
question, was to express his own contemptuous surprise at what 
he saw, or to let his eyes pass from the man to the sepulchre 
which he was hewing. It is not necessarily implied however in 
this explanation that the conversation was to take place at the 
sepulchre. The labour and expense bestowed on ancient sepul- 
chres (of far later date however than Isaiah's time), is still at- 
test d by the tombs remaining at Jerusalem, Petra, and Perso- 
nalis, where some are excavated near the tops of lofty rocks in 
order to be less accessible, to which practice there may be allu- 
sion in the verse before us, and also in the words of 2 Ghr. 
32 : 33, as explained by most interpreters, viz. that Hezekiah was 
buried in the highest of the tombs of the sons of David. (See 
Robinson's Palestine, I. 5 16-539. II. 525.) The word habitation 
is supposed by some to have allusion to the oriental practice of 
making tombs in shape (and frequently in size) like houses, by 
others more poetically to the idea of the grave, as a long home 
(Ecc. 12:5). In this case, as in many others, the ideal and 
material allusion may have both been present to the writer's 
mind. What (is) to thee and who is to thee are the usual unavoid- 
able periphrases for what and whom hast thou, the verb to have 
being wholly wanting in this family of languages. 

17. Behold, Jehovah is casting thee a cast, oh man ! and cover- 
ing thee a covering. The idea is that he is certainly about to 
oast and cover thee, or to do it completely and with violence. 



bearing burdens. (See above, eh. 9 : 4 . 10 : 27.) The baft 
interpreters appear to be agreed that the government or ad- 
ministration is here represented by the figure of a burden, not 
merely in the general as in eh. 9 : 6, but the specific burden of 
a key, chosen in order to express the idea of control over tk 
royal house, which was the title of the office in question. The 
application of the same terms to Peter (Matt. 16 : 19) and to 
Christ himself (Rev. 3 : 7) does not prove that they here refer 
to either, or that Eliakim was a type of Christ, but merely 
that the same words admit of different applications. 

23. And I will fasten him a nail in a sure place, and he shall 
be for a throne of glory to his father's house. The figure in the 
first clause naturally conveys the idea of security and perma- 
nence. The reference is not to the stakes or centre post of a 
tent, but to the large pegs, pins or nails often built into the 
walls of oriental houses for the purpose of suspending clothes 
or vessels. The last clause is obscure. The most natural in- 
terpretation of the words, and that most commonly adopted, il 
that the figure of a nail is here exchanged for that of a seat, 
this being common to the two, that they alike suggest the idea 
of support though in different ways. Those whom Eliakim 
was the means of promoting might be said, with a change of 
figure but without a change of meaning, both to sit and hang 
upon him. He was to be not only a seat but a seat of honour, 
which is nearer to the meaning of the Hebrew phrase than 
throne of glory. 

24. And they shall hang wpon him all the honour of his father's 
house — the offspring and the issue — all vessels of small quantity— 
from vessels of cups even to all vessels of flagons. Here the figure 
of a nail is resumed. The dependents of Eliakim are repre- 
sented as suspended on him as their sole support. The words 
translated offspring and issue, are expressions borrowed from 


tike vegetable world. It is commonly assumed by interpreters 
that tbe two words are in antithesis, denoting either different 
sexes (sons and daughters), or different generations (sous and 
grandsons), or different ranks, which last is the usual explanation. 
The next phrase is designed to show that even the least are 
not to be excepted. The two expressions in the last clause 
may be taken either as equivalent or as contrasting the gold 
and silver vessels of the altar (Ex. 24 : 6) with common 
earthen utensils (Jer. 48 : 12. Lam. 4 : 2). 

25. In that day, saith Jehovah of Hosts, shall the nail fastened 
in a sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall, and the bur- 
den which was on it shall be cut off, for Jehovah speaks. The 
most natural and obvious application of these words is to 
Eliakim, who had just been represented as a nail in a sure 
place. But as this would predict his fall, without the slightest 
intimation of the reason, and in seeming contradiction to the 
previous context, most interpreters reject this exposition as 
untenable. Most writers seem to be agreed, that the twenty- 
fifth verse relates to Shebna, and that the Prophet, after liken- 
ing Eliakim to a nail fastened in a sure place, tacitly applies 
the same comparison to Shebna, and declares that the nail 
which now seems to be securely fastened shall soon yield to 
make way for the other. Those who refer the verse to Eliakim 
suppose his fall to have been occasioned by his nepotism or ex- 
cessive patronage of his relations, a conjectural inference from 
v. 24. The partial fulfilment of this prophecy is commonly 
supposed to be recorded in ch. 36 : 3, where Eliakim actually 
fills the place here promised to him, and Shebna appears in 
the inferior character of a scribe or secretary. Some indeed 
suppose two persons of the name of Shebna, which is not only 
arbitrary in itself, but rendered more improbable by this con- 
sideration, that Shebna is probably a foreign name, and cer- 
tainly occurs only in these and the parallel places, whereas 


Hilkiah is of frequent occurrence, and yet is admitted uponr dl 
hands to denote the same person. It seems improbable M 
doubt that Shebna, after such a threatening, should be tran* 
ferred to another office. But the threatening may not have 
been public, and tbe transfer may have been merely the begin- 
ning of his degradation. But even supposing that the Shebna 
of ch. 36 • 3 is a different person, and that the execution of 
this judgment is nowhere explicitly recorded, there is no need 
of concluding tbat it was revoked or that it was meant to be 
conditional, much less that it was falsified by the event. It u 
a common usage of the Scriptures, and of this book in par- 
ticular, to record a divine command and not its execution, leav- 
ing the latter to be inferred from the former as a matter of 
course. Of this we have had repeated examples, such as 
ch. 7 : 4 and 8:1. Nay in this very case, we are merely told 
what Isaiah was commanded to say to Shebna, without being 
told that he obeyed the order. If the execution of this order 
may be taken for granted, so may the fulfilment of the proph- 
ecy. If it had failed, it would not have been recorded or 
preserved among the prophecies. 


This prophecy consists of two parts. The first predicts the 
fall of Tyre, vs. 1-14. The second promises its restoration 
and conversion, vs. 15-18. The fall of Tyre is predicted, not 
directly, but in the form of apostrophes, addressed to her own 
people or her colonies, vs. 1-7. The destruction is referred to 
God as its author, and to the Chaldees as his instruments, 
vs. 8-14. The prediction in the latter part includes three 
events Tyre shall be forsaken and forgotten for seventy 


Jean, v. 15. She shall then be restored to her former activity 
and wealth, vs. 16, 17. Thenceforth her gains shall be de- 
TOted to the Lord, y. 18. 

. Tyre, one of the chief cities of Phenicia, was situated partly 
on a rocky island near the coast, and partly in a wide and fer- 
tile plain upon the coast itself. It was long a current opinion 
that the insular Tyre had no existence before the time of 
Nebuchadnezzar ; but Hengstenberg has made it probable that 
from the beginning the chief part of the city was situated on 
the island, or rather a peninsula connected with the mainland 
by a narrow isthmus. Tyre is remarkable in history for two 
things ; its maritime trade, and the many sieges it has under- 
gone. The first of these on record was by Shalmaneser king 
of Assyria, who according to Menander, a historian now lost 
but quoted by Josephus, blockaded Tyre for five years, so as to 
cut off the supply of water from the mainland, but without being 
able to reduce the city. The next was by Nebuchadnezzar king 
of Babylon, who besieged it thirteen years ; with what result, is 
not expressly mentioned either in profane or sacred history. 
A third siege was by Alexander the Great, who after seven 
months and with the utmost difficulty finally reduced it. It 
was afterwards besieged by the Syrian king Anttgonus, and 
more than once during the Crusades, both by Franks and Sar- 
acens. After this period it entirely decayed, and has now dis- 
appeared, its site being marked by the insulated rock, by the 
causeway between it and the mainland still existing as a bar 
of sand, and by columns and other architectural remains mostly 
lying under water. 

It has been much disputed which of these events is the sub- 
ject of the prophecy before us. Some see the fulfilment in the 
days of Isaiah himself, and refer the prediction to the siege by 
Shalmaneser. Others give it a wider scope, and seem to make 
the siege by Alexander its main subject. But the great body 
of the older writers refer it to an intermediate even*, the siege 


by Nebaohadnessar. Most probably the prophecy before in i| 
generic not specific, a panoramic picture of the downfall- of 
Tyre, from the beginning to the end of the destroying process, 
with particular allusions to particular sieges, as for instance to 
that of the Chaldees in v. 13, and perhaps to that of Alexander 

in v. 6. 


1. The burden of Tyre. Howl, ships of Tar shish, for it i$ hM 
waste — no house, no entrance— from the land of Chittim it is re- 
vealed to them. The command or exhortation to howl implies 
that those to whom it is addressed have peculiar cause for 
grief. By ships of Tarshish we are not to understand merchant- 
ships in general, but strictly those which carried on the trade 
between Phenioia and its Spanish colony Tartessua. It is laid 
waste may be indefinitely taken to mean desolation has been 
wrought, or something has been desolated, without saying what 
The expressions no house, no entrance, may refer particularly to 
the mariners returning from their long voyage and finding their 
homes destroyed. Chittim is the island of Cyprus, in which 
there was a city Citium, which Cicero expressly mentions as 
a Phenician settlement. It is revealed (L e. the event announced 
in the preceding clause) to them (the Tyrian mariners on their 
way home from Tarshish). The meaning seems to be. that the 
news of the fall of Tyre has reached the Phenician settlements 
in Cyprus, and through them the Tyrian mariners that touch 

2. Be silent oh inhabitants of the isle (or coast), the merchants of 
Sidon crossing the sea filled thee. This may either be addressed 
to the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean which had long 
been frequented by the Phenician traders, or to Phenioia itself, 
which foreign commerce had enriched. The last explanation 
is commonly preferred j but the first is recommended by the 
fact that it assigns a reason for the mention of the foreign trade 


ef Sidon, as accounting for tbe interest which other nations are 
supposed to feel in the fall of Tyre. On either supposition, 
Sidon, the other great city of Phenicia, is put for the whole 

3. And in great waters (was) the seed of the Nile ; the harvest 
ef the river (was) her revenue ; and she was a mart of nations. The 
Hebrew and Egyptian names of the Nile are here combined. 
The first, according to its etymology, means black, and corres- 
ponds to M£ lag and Melo, Greek and Latin names of the same 
river, all derived from the colour of the water or the mud which 
it deposits. Of the whole verse there are three interpretations. 
The first supposes an allusion to the fact that the grain of 
Egypt was exported in Phenician vessels on the great waters 
i e. over the sea. The objection that Phenicia is described by 
Ezekiel as trading not with Egypt but with Palestine in grain, 
though entitled to some weight, is not conclusive. A stronger 
objection may be drawn from the apparent incongruity of 
naming this one branch of commerce as a proof that Tyre was 
a mart of nations. A second interpretation understands what is 
said of Egypt figuratively, or as a comparison ; as if be had 
said that the wealth which Egypt derived from the Nile, Pheni- 
cia derived from the great waters i. e. by her maritime trade. 
The third differs from this only by supposing a distinct allusion 
to the insular situation of Tyre, which, though planted on a 
rock and girt by mighty waters, reaped as rich a harvest as the 
fertile land of Egypt. This last interpretation is much more 
poetical than either of the others, and at least in that respect 
entitled to the preference. 

4. Be ashamed (or confounded) Zidon, for the sea saith, the 
strength of the sea, saying, I have not travailed, and I have not 
borne, and I have not reared young men (or) brought up' virgins. 
One of the great cities of Phenicia is here called upon to be 


confounded at the desolation of the other ; or Zidon may be 
pat for the whole country, as in the preceding verse. The 
Prophet hears a voice from the sea, which he then describes 
more exactly as coming from the stronghold or fortress of the 
sea, L e. insular Tyre as viewed from the mainland. The rest 
of the verse is intended to express the idea that the city thus 
personified was childless, was as if she had never borne chil- 
dren. The whole metaphor is clearly intended to express the 
idea of depopulation. 

5. When the report (comes) to Egypt, they are pained at the re- 
port of Tyre. There are three distinct interpretations of this 
verse. The first refers the pronoun to the Sidonians or Phe- 
nicians generally, and understands the verse to mean that they 
would be as much grieved to hear of the fall of Tyre as if they 
should hear of that of Egypt. The second makes the verb in- 
definite, or understands it of the nations generally, who are then 
said to be as much astounded at the fall of Tyre as they once 
were at the judgments of Jehovah upon Egypt. The third, 
which is the erne now commonly adopted, makes Egypt itself or 
the Egyptians the subject of the verb. This last supposes the 
Egyptians to lament for the loss of their great mart and com- 
mercial ally. The idea expressed by the second construction 
is a much more elevated one. Either of these interpretations 
appears preferable to the first, which yields an unnatural and 
inappropriate sense. 

6. Pass over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle (or 
coast). The mother country is exhorted to take refuge in her 
distant colonies. 

7. Is this your joyous city (literally, is this to you a joyous one ?) 
from the days of old is her antiquity ; her feet shall carry her afar 
off to sojourn. Most writers understand the last clause as ap- 


plying, either to the flight of the Tynans to their colonies, or 
to their being carried into exile. 

8. Who hath purposed this against Tyre the crowning (city), 
whose merchants (are) princes, her traffickers the honoured of the 
earth ? Most writers seem to be agreed that the word here 
translated crowning denotes the crowner or crown-giver, in allu- 
sion to the fact that crowned heads were among the tributaries 
of Phenicia, according to the testimony of the Greek historians. 
The question in this verse implies that no ordinary power could 
have done it. 

9. Jehovah of Hosts hath purposed it, to profane the elevation of 
all beauty, to degrade all the honoured of t/te earth. This is the 
answer to the question in v. 8. Not only in poetry, but in ani- 
mated prose, the writers of all languages ask questions to be 
answered by themselves. The word translated profane means 
strictly to desecrate that which is reckoned holy, but is here 
used to express the making common of that which was distin- 
guished by magnificence or beauty. 

10. Pass through thy land like the river (Nile). Daughter of 
Tarshish, there is no girdle (any) longer. It is commonly agreed 
that the phrase means, as the Nile passes, i. e. quickly or without 
restraint. The daughter of Tarshish is Tarshish itself. There 
is no more girdle, may be taken in opposite senses, as denoting 
the failure of strength and general dissolution, or the absence 
of restraint and freedom from oppression. 

11. His hand he stretched out over the sea; he made kingdoms 
tremble ; Jehovah commanded respecting Canaan to destroy her 
strongholds. The subject of the verbs in the first clause is the 
same as in the last 

12. And he said, Hum shall not add longer (or continue) to 


triumph, oppressed (or violated) virgin daughter of Zidon; te 
Chittim arise, pass over ; there also there shall be no rest to thee. 
The address is not to Chittim, nor to Tyre as a daughter of 
the oldor city, but to Zidon itself. Zidon is here put for 
Phenicia in general This exhortation corresponds exactly to 
the one in v. 6, Tarshish and Chittim being both PhenicUn 
colonies. The last clause implies, either that the colonists 
would not receive them, or that the enemy would still, pursue 
them, probably the latter. 

13. Behold the land of the Chaldees ; this people was not; As- 
syria, founded it for dwellers in the wilderness ; they have set up kit 
towers ; they have roused up her palaces ; he has put it for (or ren- 
dered it) a ruin. This difficult verse has been very variously, 
understood. Some apply it exclusively to the destruction of 
Tyre by the Assyrians ; but this can only be effected by aa 
arbitrary change of text. The great majority, both of the older 
and the later writers, leave the text unaltered, and suppose that 
the Prophet here brings the Chaldees into view as the instru- 
ments of Tyre's destruction. The second clause will then be 
a parenthesis, containing an allusion to a historical fact not ex- 
pressly mentioned elsewhere, but agreeing well with other facts 
of history, to wit, that the Chaldees were not the aborignal in- 
habitants of Babylonia, but were brought thither from the. 
mountains of Armenia or Kurdistan by the Assyrians in the 
days of their supremacy. This accounts for the fact that 
Xenophon speaks of the Chaldees as northern mountaineers, 
while in the sacred history we find them in possession of the 
great plain of Shinar. The former statement has respect, no 
doubt, to that portion of the people who were left behind in 
their original territory. This incidental statement, it may also 
be observed, is in strict accordance with the Assyrian policy of 
peopling their own provinces with conquered nations. But 
why should this fact in the history of the Chaldees be referred 


to here ? Because the recent origin and present insignificance 
of the chosen instruments made the conquest more humiliating 
to the Tyrians. When Isaiah wrote, Assyria was the ruling 
power of the world ; whatever changes were expected, were ex- 
pected from that quarter. But here the conquest of Phenicia 
is ascribed to a people then but little known, if known at all. 
It was perfectly natural therefore to say negatively, that it was 
not to be effected by Assyria, as well as positively, that it was 
to be effected by Ghaldea. In like manner, if the fall of the 
Roman state had been foretold during the period of the Persian 
wars, how naturally might the Prophet have said that it should 
fall, not before the Carthaginians, but before the Goths. 

• 14. Howl, ships of Tarshish^for destroyed is your stronghold. 
The first part of the prophecy here closes very much as it 
began. The description of Tyre is the same as in v. 4, except 
that it was there called the fortress of the sea, and here the 
fortress of the Tyrian ships. 

15. And it shall come to pass in that day that Tyie shall be for- 
gotten seventy years, as the days of the king ; from the end of sev- 
enty years shall be (or happen) to Tyre like the harlot's song. The 
remainder of the chapter predicts the restoration of Tyre, not 
to its former dignity, but to its wealth and commercial activity, 
the fruits of which should thenceforth be consecrated to Jeho- 
vah. There is no difference of opinion with respect to the 
meaning of the words or the grammatical construction of the 
sentence, but the utmost diversity of judgment in relation to 
the general sense and application of the whole, and especially 
of the words, seventy years as the days of one king. That Tyre 
was a flourishing city in the time of Alexander the Great, is 
matter of history. When it again became so, is not But since 
the fact is certain and the prophecy explicit, the most rational 
conclusion is that they chronologically coincide, or in other 


words, that Tyre did begin to recover from the effects of th* 
Babylonian conquest about seventy years after the catastrophe 
itself. This of course supposes that the words are to be defi- 
nitely understood. If, on the other hand, they are indefinite, 
there can be still less difficulty in supposing their fulfilment 
In either case, the words seventy days etc. remain so enigmati- 
cal, and all the explanations of them so unsatisfactory, that 
some may be tempted to refer them to the future, and to look 
for their fulfilment hereafter. When Zechariah wrote, the 
Babylonian conquest predicted by Isaiah and Ezekiel had al- 
ready taken place. The change for the better, predicted by 
Isaiah alone, was then already visible. The prophecies of both 
respecting the total destruction of the city are renewed by 
Zechariah and referred to a period still future, with partic- 
ular reference, as some suppose, to the time of Alexander 
but it may be with a scope still more extensive. The last 
clause foretells the restoration of Tyre in a very peculiar and 
significant form. Instead of a queen reinstated on the throne, 
she now appears as a forgotten harlot, suing once more for ad- 
miration and reward. Although this metaphor, as we shall see 
below, does not necessarily imply moral turpitude, it does ne- 
cessarily impart a contemptuous tone to the prediction. The 
best explanation of this change of tone is that the restoration 
here predicted was to be a restoration to commercial prosperity 
and wealth, but not to regal dignity or national importance. 
The song of a harlot (or the harlot) is now commonly agreed to 
mean a particular song well known to the contemporaries of the 
Prophet. It shall be to her like this song can only mean that 
what the song presents as an ideal situation should be realized 
in the experience of Tyre. The Hebrew words will scarcely 
bear the meaning put upon them in the text of the English 

.1$. Take a harp, go about the city, oh forgotten harlot, plqf 


xtellj sing much, that thou mayest be remembered. These are now 
commonly explained as the words of the song itself, describing 
the only way in which* the harlot could recover her lost place in 
the memory of men, viz. by soliciting their notice and their 
favour. The application of the song to Tyre implies not only 
that she had lost her former position in the sight of the nations, 
but that exertion would be needed to recover it. Play well, 
much, literally, make good playing, multiply song. 

17. And it shall be (or come to pass), from (or at) the end of 
seventy years, Jehovah will visit Tyre, and she shall return to her 
hire (or gain), and shall play the harlot with all the kingdoms of 
He earth upon the face of the ground. As God is said to visit men 
both in wrath and mercy, and as the figure here employed is at 
first sight a revolting one, some of the older writers understand 
this verse as describing the continued wickedness of Tyre re- 
quiring further judgments. The figure indeed is now commonly 
agreed to denote nothing more than commercial intercourse 
without necessarily implying guilt. In ancient times, when 
international commerce was a strange thing and nearly monop- 
olized by a single nation, and especially among the Jews, whose 
law discouraged it for wise but temporary purposes, there were 
probably ideas attached to such promiscuous intercourse entirely 
different from our own. Certain it is that the Scriptures more 
than once compare the mutual solicitations of commercial enter- 
prise to illicit love. That the comparison does not necessarily 
involve the idea of unlawful or dishonest trade, is sufficiently 
apparent from the following verse. 

18. And her gain and her hire shall be holiness (or holy i.e. 
consecrated) to Jehovah ; it shall not be stored and it shall not be 
hoarded ; for her gain shall be for those who sit (or dwell) before 
Jehovah, to eat to satiety, and for substantial clothing. By those 
who dwell before Jehovah we are probably to understand his 


worshippers in general and his official servants in particular. 
There may be an allusion to the chambers around the temple 
which were occupied by priests and Levites when in actual 
service. The general sense of the prediction evidently is, that 
the commercial gains of Tyre should redound to the advantage 
of the servants of Jehovah. 


Here begins a series of prophecies (ch. xxiv-xxxv), having 
reference chiefly to Judah. It is not divided into parts by any 
titles or express intimations of a change of subject The style 
is also homogeneous and uniform. The attempts which have 
been made to subdivide this portion of the book are for the most 
part arbitrary. The conventional division into chapters may 
be retained as a matter of convenience. The first four chapters 
(xxiv-xxvii) are now universally regarded as forming one 
continuous composition. What is said of ch. xxiv is therefore 
in some degree applicable to the whole. This chapter contains 
a description of a country filled with confusion and distress by 
a visitation from Jehovah in consequence of its iniquities, vs. 
1-12. It then speaks of a remnant scattered among the nations 
and glorifying God in distant lands, vs 13-16. The Prophet 
then resumes his description of the judgments coming on the 
same land or another, winding up with a prophecy of Jehovah's 
exaltation in Jerusalem, vs. 16-23. The endless diversity of 
judgment with regard to this chapter, both among the older 
and later writers, shows that the prediction is generic. In tbis 
case, as in many others, the exclusive restriction of the proph- 
ecy to one event is wholly arbitrary. What the Prophet has 
left indefinite we have no right to make specific. Particular 


allusions there may be ; but this, as we have seen in other 
i, does not limit the application of the whole. 

1. Behold, Jehovah (is) pouring out the land and emptying it, 
and he will turn down its face, and he will scatter its inhabitants. 
The figure is that of a bottle or other vessel drained of its con- 
tents by being turned upside down. The allusion in this last 
clause may be both to flight and deportation. Isaiah here 
speaks of the Babylonian conquest as still distant, but at the 
same time as infallibly certain. 

2. And it shall be, as the people so the priest, as the servant so 
his master, as the buyer so the seller, as the borrower so the lender, as 
the debtor so the creditor. That is, all ranks and classes shall fare 

3. The land shall be utterly emptied and utterly spoiled, for Je- 
hovah speaks (or hath spoken) this word. The last clause de- 
notes the certainty of the event because predicted by Jehovah. 

4. The" earth mourneth, fadeth ; the world languisheth, fadeth ; 
tit highest of the people of the earth languish. Earth and world 
are not to be taken in their widest sense, but as poetical de- 
scriptions of the country. 

5. And the land has been profaned under its inhabitants, be- 
cause they have transgressed the laws, violated the statute, broken 
the everlasting covenant. Almost all writers seem to apply the 
passage to the Jews, and to understand it as referring their 
calamities to their transgressions. The land is said to be pro- 
faned as being a holy land or consecrated to Jehovah. Most 
interpreters suppose a special reference to pollution by blood or 
the guilt of murder. The reference in this verse is to the di- 
vine law generally. The three terms used are substantially 



synonymous, law, statute, covenant, being continually inter- 
changed. The simple meaning of the verse is that they dis- 
obeyed the will of God. 

6. Therefore a curse devoured the earth, and those dwelling in 
it were reckoned guilty (and so treated). Therefore the inhabir 
tants of the earth burned, and there are few men left. 

7. The new wine mourneth ; the vine languisheth ; all the merry- 

hearted do sigh. . 

8. Still is the mirth of drums ; ceased is the noise of revellers ; 
stUl is the mirth of the harp. Music is here mentioned as a com- 
mon token and accompaniment of mirth. 

9. With the song they shall not drink wine ; bitter shall strong 
drink be to them that drink it. The last clause means of course 
that they should lose the appetite for such enjoyments. 

10. Broken down is the city of confusion (emptiness or desola- 
tion), shut up is every house from entering (i. e. so that it is not or 
cannot be entered). The city meant is Jerusalem. The last 
clause might be understood to refer to the closing of the houses 
by the inhabitants against the enemy, or to their being left un- 
occupied ; but the first clause seems to show that it rather re- 
lates to the obstruction of the entrance by the ruins. 

11. A cry for wine in the streets — darkened is all joy — departed 
is the gladness of the earth. The cry meant is that of the perish- 
ing inhabitants for necessary refreshment, perhaps with special 
reference to the sick and wounded or to children. 

12. (What is) left in the city is desolation, and into ruins is the 
gate beaten down. The first clause is in opposition to the last 


of v. 11. Joy is gone and desolation is left behind. The gate 
is here named as the most important part of the oity ; bat it 
does not directly mean the city itself. 

13. For so shall it be in the midst of the earth among the na- 
tions, like the beating of an olive-tree, like gleanings when the 
gathering is done. The Prophet is stating more distinctly the 
extent of the desolation which he had before described. In 
the midst of the nations is explained as actual dispersion among 
foreign nations. 

14. They shall raise their voice, they shall sing (or shout), for 
the majesty of Jehovah they cry aloud from the sea. The pronoun 
at the beginning is emphatic. They, the few dispersed sur- 
vivors of these judgments. 

15. Therefore in the fires glorify Jehovah, in the islands of the 
tea the name of Jehovah God of Israel. This seems to be an 
address to the persons who had already been described as 
praising God, exhorting them to do so still. The word trans- 
lated fires is now commonly agreed to be a local designation 
The weight of exegetical authority preponderates in favour of 
the meaning in the east (as the region of sunrise or of dawning 
light) in opposition to the sea or west. 

16. From the wing (skirt or edge) of the earth we have heard 
songs, praise to the righteous, and I said, woe to me, woe to me, alas 
far me ! The deceivers deceive, with deceit the deceivers deceive. 
We hear promises and praise to the righteous, but our experi- 
ence is that of misery. 

17. Fear and pit and snare upon thee, oh inhabitant of the 
land ! This may be either a warning (are upon thee) or tho 
expression of a wish (be upon thee). It is a probable though 


not a necessary supposition, that the terms here used are bor- 
rowed from the ancient art of hunting. 

18. And it shall be (that) the (one) flying from the voice of the 
fear shall fall into the pit, and the (one) coming up from the fttfrf 
of the pit shall be taken in the snare ; for windows from on high 
are opened, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. The first 
clause carries out the figures of the foregoing verse ; the second 
introduces those of a deluge and an earthquake. The allusion 
to the flood is acknowledged by almost all writers, and is ren- 
dered certain by the resemblance of the language to that used 
in Gen. 7:11. 

19. Broken, broken is the earth; shattered, shattered is the 
earth ; shaken, shaken is the earth. 

20. The earth reels, reels like a drunken man, and is shaken 
like a hammock. And heavy upon her is her guilt, and she shall 
fall arid rise no more. The ideas earth and land, both which 
are expressed by the Hebrew word, run into one another and 
are interchanged in a manner not to be expressed in a transla- 
tion. The old translation of the second clause (removed like a 
cottage) is now commonly abandoned. The Hebrew word de- 
notes properly a temporary lodging-place. In ch. 1 : 8 it was 
applied to a watch-shed in a melon-field. Here it seems to 
signify something more moveable and something suspended in 
the air. The latest writers are accordingly agreed in retain- 
ing the interpretation which makes it mean a cloth or mat sus- 
pended between trees or boughs of trees for the use of noctur- 
nal watchers. Such are described by Niebuhr as common in 
Arabia, and are known throughout the east by a name essen- 
tially identical with those used in the Chaldee, Syriac, and Ara- 
bic versions of this sentence. 


21. And it shall be in that day (that) Jehovah shall visit (for 
the purpose of inflicting punishment) upon the host of the high 
float in the high place and upon the kings of the earth upon the 
earth. Interpreters have commonly assumed that the host of the 
high place is the same with the host of heaven, and must there- 
fore mean either stars or angels or both. It may be doubted how- 
ever whether there is any reference to the host of heaven at all. 
Sigh is a relative expression, and although applied to heaven 
in v. 18, is applied to earth or to human society in v. 4. The 
former sense may seem to be here required by the antithesis ; 
but it is not clear that any antithesis was intended, which is 
the less probable because earth is not the customary opposite 
of heaven. The sense may simply be that God will judge the 
high or lofty host viz. the kings of the land upon the land. But 
even if there be an antithesis, and even if the host of heaven 
in the usual sense of the expression be alluded to, the analogy 
of this whole context would seem to indicate that this is merely 
a strong figure for different ranks or degrees of dignity on earth. 

22. And they shall be gathered with a gathering as prisoners 
in a pit, and shall be shut up in a dungeon, and after many days 
they shaU be visited. The sense of the first clause evidently is 
that they shall be imprisoned. The persons meant are the 
principalities and powers of the verse preceding. There are 
two interpretations of the verb visited. According to one it 
means they shall be punished, or at least brought forth to judg- 
ment. The other is, they shall be visited in mercy. 

23. And the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed, for 
Jehovah of Hosts is king in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and 
before his elders there is glory. Before the splendour of Jeho- 
vah's reign all lesser principalities and powers shall fade away. 
The elders are the rulers of Israel as the church. The simple 
meaning of the verse appears to be that Jehovah's reign over 


hit people shall be more august than that of any created sov- 
ereign. This is true of the ohurch in various periods of his- 
tory, but more especially in those when the presence and 
power of God are peculiarly manifested. The affinity between 
this verse and the last of the preceding chapter seems to show 
that their juxtaposition is by no means fortuitous. 


This chapter consists of three distinguishable parts. The 
first is a thanksgiving to God for the destruction of Babylon 
and the deliverance of the Jews, vs. 1-5. The second is a 
promise of favour to the gentiles and the people of God, when 
united on Mount Zion, vs. 6-9. The third is a threatening 
of disgraceful ruin to Moab, vs. 10-12. 

1. Jehovah, my God {art) thou ; I will exalt thee; I toil J praise 
thy name ; for thou hast done a wonder , counsels from afar off, 
truth, certainty. The song of praise opens in the usual lyric 
style. (See Ex. 15:2, 11. Ps. 118:28. 145: 1.) The whole 
phrase may either mean, I will acknowledge thy goodness tow- 
ards me, or I will confess thee to be what thy name imports, I 
will acknowledge thy acts to be consistent with the previous 
revelations of thine attributes. What wonder is especially re- 
ferred to, the next verse explains. The last clause admits of 
several different constructions. Many of the older writers 
make it an independent proposition. Thus the English Version : 
thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. Others simplify 
the same construction still more by making all the nouns in the 
last clause objects of the verb in the first : thou hast brought to 
pass a wonder, ancient counsels, faithfulness, truth. From afar 


off seems to imply, not only that the plans were formed of old, 
bat that they were long ago revealed. Even long before the 
event they are certain. 

2, 3. For than, hast turned (it) from a city to a heap, a fortified 
town to a ruin, a palace of strangers from (being) a city ; for- 
ever it shall not be built. Therefore a powerful people shall 
honour thee, a city of terrible nations shall fear thee. The 
destruction of Babylon, and the fulfilment of prophecy there- 
by, shall lead even the boldest and wildest of the heathen 
to acknowledge Jehovah as the true God. It is usual to 
apply the terms of this verse specifically to the Medes and 
Persians as the conquerors of Babylon. There seems to 
be no need of applying the verse to a cordial voluntary re- 
cognition of Jehovah. It may just as well denote a compul- 
sory extorted homage, fear being taken in its proper sense. The 
verse will then be an apt description of the effect produced by 
Jehovah's overthrow of Babylon on the Babylonians themselves. 
There is something unusual in the expression city of nations. 
It must either be explained as implying a plurality of subject 
nations, or the word translated nations must be taken in its 
secondary sense of gentiles, heathen, as applied to individuals or 
to one community. 

4. For thou hast been a strength (or stronghold) to the weak, a 
strength (or stronghold) to the poor in his distress, a refuge from 
the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible (or 
of the tyrants) was like a storm against a wall The nations 
shall reverence Jehovah, not merely as the destroyer of Baby- 
lon, but as the deliverer of his people, for whose sake that catas- 
trophe was brought about. Weak and poor, are epithets often 
applied to Israel considered as a sufferer. The two figures of 
extreme heat and a storm of rain are combined to express the 
idea of persecution or affliction. The last phrase in the Hebrew 


naturally signifies precisely what the English Version has ex- 
pressed, to wit, a storm against a wall, denoting the direction 
and the object of the violence, but not its issue. As a storm 
of rain beats upon a wall, so the Babylonian persecution beat 
upon the captive Jews. 

5. As the heat in a drought (or in a dry place), the noise <f 
strangers wilt thou bring down ; (as) heat by the shadow of a cloudy 
(so) shall the song of the tyrants be brought low. The sufferings 
of Israel under oppression shall be mitigated and relieved as 
easily and quietly as the intense heat of the sun by an inter- 
vening cloud. The noise mentioned in the first clause is prob- 
ably the tumult of battle and conquest, and the song in the last 
clause the triumphal song of the victorious enemy. The mean- 
ing branch is more agreeable to usage, but not so appropriate in 
this connection. 

6. And Jehovah of Hosts will make, for all nations, in this 
mountain, a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat 
things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. Jerusalem, 
hitherto despised and oppressed, shall yet be a source of attrac- 
tion, nourishment, and exhilaration, to mankind. This verse 
resumes the thread of the discourse, which was interrupted at 
the end of the last chapter, for the purpose of inserting the 
triumphal song (vs. 1-5). Having there said that Jehovah and 
his elders should appear in glory on Mount Zion, he now shows 
what is there to be bestowed upon the nations. This verse 
contains a general statement of the relation which Jerusalem 
or Zion should sustain to the whole world, as a source of moral 
influence. There is nothing to indicate the time when the 
promise should be fulfilled, nor indeed to restrict it to one time 
exclusively. As the ancient seat of the true religion, and as 
the cradle of the church which has since overspread the nations, 
it has always more or less fulfilled the office here ascribed to it. 


7. And he will swallow up (i. e. destroy) in this mountain the 
face of the veil, the veil upon all peoples, and the web, the (one) woven 
over all the nations. The influence to go forth from this centre 
shall dispel the darkness, both of ignorance and sorrow, which 
bow broods over the world. The subject of the verb is Jeho- 
vah. By the face of the veil some understand the veil itself. 
Others suppose a metathesis for the veil of the face. Others, 
with more probability, infer from the analogous expression in 
Job 41 : 13, that the veil or covering is here described as being 
the surface or upper side of the object covered. Most interpre- 
ters suppose an allusion to the practice of veiling the face as a 
sign of mourning, which agrees well with the next verse and is 
no doubt included, but the words seem also to express the idea 
of a veil upon the understanding. (See above, ch. 22 : 8.) 

8. He has swallowed up death forever, and the Lord Jehovah 
wipes away tears from off all faces, and the reproach of his people 
he will take away from off all the earth, for Jehovah hath spoken (it). 
The people of God, who seemed to be extinct, shall be restored 
to life, their grief exchanged for joy. and their disgrace for 
honour in the presence of the world, a result for which he 
pledges both his power and foreknowledge. The true sense 
seems to be that all misery and suffering, comprehended under 
the generic name of death, should be completely done away. It 
is then a description of the ultimate effects of the influence be- 
fore described as flowing from Mount Zion or the church of God. 
In its highest sense this may never be realized by any individ- 
ual till after death. Paul says accordingly (I Cor. 15:54), 
that when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and 
this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought 
to pass the saying that is written, xarend&ij 6 ^dfarog elg vlxog. 
As this is not an explanation of the text before us, nor even a 
citation of it in the way of argument, but merely a sublime de- 
scription, all that it was necessary to express was the final, per- 



petual, triumphant abolition of death. The phrase •!# ?!»* 

therefore, although not a strict translation, is no departure from 
its essential meaning. In its primary import, the clause is. a 
promise to God's people, corresponding to the foregoing promise 
to the nations. While on the one hand he would lift the veil 
from the latter, and admit them to a feast upon Zion, on the 
other he would abolish death and wipe tears from the faces .of 
his people. The restriction of these last expressions *o the 
pains of death, or to the sorrow of bereavement, detracts from 
the exquisite beauty of the passage, which the poet Burns, it 
is said, could not read without weeping. 

9. And one shall say (or they shall say) in that day, La, this is 
our God ; toe have waited for him, and he will save us; this is 
Jehovah ; we have waited for him ; let us rejoice and be glad in his 
salvation. When these gracious promises shall be fulfilled, 
those who have trusted in them shall no longer be ashamed of 
their strong confidence, because it will be justified by the event, 
and they will have nothing left but to rejoice in the fulfilment 
of their hopes. This is our God, this is Jehovah; as if they 
had said, this is the God of whom we have spoken, and for 
trusting in whom we have so often been derided. We have* 
waited long, but he is come at last, to vindicate his truth and 
our reliance on him. 

10. For the hand of Jehovah shall rest upon this mountain, and 
Moab shall be trodden down under him (or in his place) as straw is 
trodden in the water of the dunghill. While Israel shall thus 
enjoy the permanent protection of Jehovah, his inveterate ene- 
mies shall experience ignominious destruction. God's hand is 
the symbol of his power. Its resting on an object is the con- 
tinued exercise of that power, whether for good or evil This 
is determined by the nature of the object, as this mountain can- 
not well mean anything but what is meant in vs. 6, 7, to wit, 


Mount Zion or the church of God, and the promise of the fore- 
going context must of course be continued here. Moab and 
Edom were the two hereditary and inveterate enemies of Israel, 
their hatred being rendered more annoying and conspicuous 
by their affinity and neighbouring situation. Hence they are 
repeatedly mentioned, separately or together, as the represen- 
tatives of obstinate and malignant enemies in general As the 
name British, in our own revolutionary war, became equivalent 
to hostile, without losing its specific sense, so might the Prophets 
threaten Moab with God's vengeance, without meaning to ex- 
clude from the denunciation other like-minded enemies. This 
wide interpretation, both of Moab and Edom, is confirmed by 
the fact that one of them is often mentioned where both would 
seem to be equally included. The figure in the last clause is 
strongly expressive both of degradation and destruction. Moab 
is likened not only to straw, but to straw left to rot for the 
dunghill The idea of subjection and ruin is expressed by the 
figure of treading down or trampling under foot. The Hebrew 
word is commonly translated thresh; but as the oriental thresh- 
ing was performed for the most part by the feet of cattle, this 
sense and that of treading down are really coincident. Under 
him may either mean under Jehovah or under himself, that is, in 
his own place, in the country of Moab, or wherever he is found. 

1 1. And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of it, as the 
swimmer spreadeth forth his hands to swim ; and he shall humble 
his pride, together with the spoils (or devices) of his hands. From 
this ignominious doom Moab shall try in vain to save himself; 
his pride shall be humbled, and his struggles only serve to pre- 
cipitate his ruin. Having compared the fall of Moab to the 
treading down of straw in a filthy pool, the Prophet carries out 
his figure here, but with a change so slight and at the same time 
so natural as almost to escape observation, while it greatly adds 
to the life of the description. The down-trodden straw now 


a living person, and struggles in the filthy pool to safe 
lym— if from drowning, bat in vain. 

12. And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls he hath east 
down, humbled, brought to the ground, to the very dust (or even to 
the dust). The specific fulfilment of this prophecy cannot be 
distinctly traced in history. It was certainly verified, however, 
in the downfall of the Moabitish nation, whenever it took place. 


This chapter contains a song of praise and thanksgiving to 
be sung by Israel after his deliverance, vs. 1-19. To this is 
added a postscript, intimating that the time for such rejoicing 
was not yet at hand, vs. 20, 21. 

The song opens with an acknowledgment of God's protection 
and an exhortation to confide therein, vs > 1-4. This is founded 
on the exhibition of his righteousness and power in the destruc- 
tion of his foes and the oppressors of his people, vs. 5-11. The 
church abjures the service of all other sovereigns, and vows 
perpetual devotion to him by whom it has been delivered and 
restored, vs. 12-15. Her utter incapacity to save herself is 
then contrasted with God's power to restore his people to new 
life, with a joyful anticipation of which the song concludes, ys. 
16-19. The additional sentences contain a beautiful and ten- 
der intimation of the trials, which must be endured before these 
glorious events take place, with a solemn assurance that Jeho- 
vah is about to visit both his people and their enemies with 
chastisement, vs. 20, 21. 

1. In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: 


We have a strong city; salvation will he place (as) walls and 
breastwork. The condition and feelings of the people after their 
return from exile are expressed by patting an ideal song into 
their months. Though the first clause does not necessarily 
mean that this should actually be sung, but merely that it 
might be sung, that it would be appropriate to the times and 
to the feelings of the people, it is not at all improbable that it 
was actually used for this purpose, which could more readily 
be done as it is written in the form and manner of the Psalms, 
to which it exhibits many points of resemblance. The day 
meant is the day of deliverance which had just been promised. 

2. Open ye the gates, and let the righteous nation enter, keeping 
truth (or faith). The supposition of responsive choirs gives 
a needless complexity to the structure of the passage. The 
speakers are the same as in the first verse, and the words are 
addressed to those who kept the doors. 

3. The mind stayed (on thee) thou wilt preserve in peace (in) peace 
(L e. in perfect peace), because in thee (it is) confident (literally con- 
fided). This is a general truth deduced from the experience of 
those who are supposed to be the speakers. The elliptical con- 
struction in the English Bible (him whose mind is stayed on thee) 
is not very natural. 

4. Trust ye in Jehovah forever (literally, even to eternity), for in 
Jah Jehovah is a rock of ages (or an everlasting rock). To the 
general truth stated in v. 3, a general exhortation is now added, 
not addressed by ono chorus to another, but by the same ideal 
speakers to all who hear them or are willing to receive the 
admonition. This is one of the few places in which the name 
Jehovah is retained by the common English Version. On 
the origin and usage of the name Jah, see above, ch. 12 : 2. 
The .occurrence of the combination here confirms its genuine- 


nets there. The figurative name rock, as applied to God, in- 
cludes the two ideas of a hiding place and a foundation, or the 
one complex idea of a permanent asylum. 

5. For he hath brought down the inhabitants of the high place, 
the exalted city ; he will lay it low, he will lay it low, to the very 
ground ; he will bring it to the very dust. He has proved him- 
self able to protect his people, and consequently worthy to be 
trusted by them, in his signal overthrow of that great power 
by which they were oppressed. The alternation of the tenses 
here is somewhat remarkable. The English Version treats 
them all as presents, which is often allowable where the forms 
are intermingled. But in this case, a reason can be given for 
the use of the two tenses, even if strictly understood. The 
Prophet looks at the events from two distinct points of obser- 
vation, his own and that of the ideal speakers. With respect 
to the latter, the fall of Babylon was past ; with respect to the 
former it was still future. He might therefore naturally say, 
even in the same sentence, he has brought it low and he shall 
bring it to the dust. 

6. The foot shall trample mi it, the feet of the afflicted, the steps of 
the weak. The ruins of the fallen city shall be trodden under- 
foot, not only by its conquerors, but by those whom it op- 
pressed. Steps is here a poetical equivalent to feet. 

7. The way for the righteous is straight (or level) ; thou most up- 
right wilt level (or rectify) the path of the righteous. A man's 
way is a common scriptural figure for his course of life. A 
straight or level way is a prosperous life. It is here declared 
that the course of the righteous is a prosperous one, because 
God makes it so. The primary idea of the word here trans- 
lated level, is to render even ; it is therefore applied both to 
balances and paths; but the two applications are not to be 


confounded ; paths may be made even, bat they cannot be 

6. Also in the way of thy judgments, oh Jehovah, toe have waited 
for thee ; to thy name and thy remembrance {was our) souVs desire. 
For this manifestation of thy righteousness and goodness we 
have long been waiting in the way of thy judgments, i. e. to see 
thee come forth as a judge, for the vindication of thy people 
and the destruction of their enemies. Name and remembrance 
or memorial denote the manifestation of God's attributes in his 

9. ( With) my soul have I desired thee in the night ; yea (with) 
my spirit within me will I seek thee early : for when thy judgments 
(come) to the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. 
The desire here expressed is not a general desire for the 
knowledge and favour of God, but a special desire that he 
would manifest his righteousness by appearing as a judge. 
This explanation is required by the connection with what goes 
before and with what follows in this very verse. The night is 
mentioned for the purpose of expressing the idea, that he feels 
this wish at all times, by night and by day. The question whether 
these are the words of the Prophet, or of each of the people, 
or of a choir or chorus representing them, proceeds upon the 
supposition of an artificial structure and a strict adherence to 
rhetorical propriety, which have no real existence in the writ- 
ings of the Prophet. The sentiments, which it was his pur- 
pose and his duty to express, are sometimes uttered in his own 
person, sometimes in that of another, and these different forms 
of speech are interchanged, without regard to the figments of 
an artificial rhetoric. By judgments, here as in the foregoing 
context, we can only understand judicial providences. The 
doctrine of the verse is. that a view of God's severity is neces- 
sary to convince men of his justice. 


10. Let the wicked be favoured, he does not learn righteousness : 
in the land of right he will do wrong, and will not seethe exaltation 
of Jehovah. The reasoning of the preceding verse is here eon- 
tinned. As it was there said that God's judgments were neces- 
sary to teach men righteousness, so it is here said that continued 
prosperity is insufficient for that purpose. The wicked man 
will go on to do wickedly, even in the very place where right 
conduct is peculiarly incumbent. Though the verse is in the 
form of a general proposition, and as such admits of various ap- 
plications, there is obvious reference to the Babylonians, who 
were not only emboldened by impunity to do wrong in the gene- 
ral, but to do it even in the land of right or rectitude, the holy 
land, Jehovah's land, where such transgressions were peculiarly 

1 1. Jehovah, thy hand is high, they will not see; (yes) they will 
see (and be ashamed) thy zeal for thy people ; yea, the fire of thine 
enemies shall devour them. The seeming contradiction instantly 
explains itself, as being a kind of after-thought. They will not 
see, (but yes) they will see. Fire denotes the wrath of God, as a 
sudden, rapid, irresistible, and utterly destroying agent. 

12. Jehovah, thou wilt give us peace, for even all our works thou 
hast wrought for us. This is an expression of strong confidence 
and hope, founded on what has already been experienced. God 
certainly would favour them in future, for he had done so al- 
ready. Peace is, as often elsewhere, to be taken in the wide 
sense of prosperity or welfare. It is commonly agreed among 
interpreters, that our works here means not the works done by us 
but the works done for us, i. e. what we have experienced. The 
version of the last clause in the text of the English Bible (thou 
hast wrought all our works in us) is ce\meoted with an old in- 
terpretation of the verse, as directly teaching the doctrine of 
human dependence and efficacious grace. This translation, how- 


ever, is equally at variance withthe usage of the Hebrew prep- 
osition and with the connection here. The context, both be- 
fore and after, has respect, not to spiritual exercises, but to 
providential dispensations. 

13. Jehovah, our God, (other) lords beside thee have ruled us ; 
(but henceforth) thee, thy name, only will we celebrate. The usual 
construction of the last clause is through thee L e. through thy 
favour, by thy help, we are enabled now to praise thy name. But 
some regard the pronoun as in apposition with thy name, and 
the whole clause as describing only the object of their worship, 
not the means by which they were enabled to render it. As 
to the lords who are mentioned in the first clause, there are two 
opinions. One is, that they are the Chaldees or Babylonians, 
under whom the Jews had been in bondage. This is now the 
current explanation. The other is, that they are the false gods 
or idols, whom the Jews had served before the exile. Against 
the former and in favour of the latter supposition it may be 
suggested, first, that the Babylonian bondage did not hinder 
the Jews from mentioning Jehovah's name or praising him ; 
secondly, that the whole verse looks like a confession of their 
own fault and a promise of amendment, rather than a reminis- 
cence of their sufferings ; and thirdly, that there seems to be 
an obvious comparison between the worship of Jehovah, as our 
God, with some other worship and some other deity. At the 
same time let it be observed, that the ideas of religious and 
political allegiance and apostasy, or of heathen rulers and of 
idol gods, were not so carefully distinguished by the ancient 
Jews as by ourselves, and it is therefore not impossible that 
both the kinds of servitude referred to may be here included, 
yet in such a manner that the spiritual one must be considered 
as the prominent idea, and the only one, if either must be fixed 
upon to the exclusion of the other. An additional argument, 
in favour of the reference of this verse to spiritual rulers, is its 


exact correspondence with the lingular fact in Jewish history, 
that since the Babylonish exile they had never been suspected 
of idolatry. That such a circumstance should be adverted to 
in this commemorative poem, is so natural that its omission 
would be almost unaccountable. 

14. Dead, they shall not live: ghosts, they shall not rise: 
therefore thou hast visited and destroyed them, and made all memory 
to perish with respect to them. Those whom we lately served are 
now no more ; thou hast destroyed them and consigned them to 
oblivion, for the very purpose of securing our freedom and de- 
votion to thy service. It seems best to refer this verse to the 
strange lords of the foregoing verse, L e. the idols themselves, 
but with some allusion, as in that case, to the idolatrous op- 
pressors of the Jews. The sense is correctly given in the 
English Version : they are dead, they shall not live ; they are do- 
ceased, they shall not rise. An attempt, however, has been made 
above to imitate more closely the concise and compact form of 
the original. For the meaning of ghosts see above, ch. 14 : 9. 
It is here a poetical equivalent to dead, and may be variously 
rendered, shades, shadows, spirits, or the like. The common 
version (deceased) leaves too entirely out of view the figurative 
character of the expression. Therefore may be used to intro- 
duce, not only the cause, but the design of an action. Though 
the words cannot mean, thou hast destroyed them because they 
are dead and powerless, they may naturally mean, thou hast 
destroyed them that they might be dead and powerless. The 
same two meanings are attached to the English phrase for this 
reason, which may either denote cause or purpose. The mean- 
ing of the verse, as connected with the one before it> is that 
the strange lords who had ruled them should not only cease to 
do so, but, so far as they were concerned, should cease to exist 
or be remembered. 


15. Thou hast added to the nation, oh Jehovah, thou hast added 
to the nation ; thou hast glorified thyself; thou hast put far off all 
the ends of the land. By this deliverance of thy people from 
the service both of idols and idolaters, thou hast added a great 
number to the remnant who were left in the Holy Land, so 
that larger territories will be needed for their occupation ; and in 
doing all this, thou hast made an exhibition of thy power, jus- 
tice, truth, and goodness. Thus understood, the whole verse 
is a grateful acknowledgment of what God had done for his 
suffering people. The enlargement of the boundaries may 
either be explained as a poetical description of the actual in- 
crease and expected growth of the nation (ch. 49 : 19), or liter- 
ally understood as referring to the fact, that after the return 
from exile the Jews were no longer restricted to their own 
proper territory, but extended themselves more or less over the 
whole country. The translation of the verb as a reflexive, 
rather than a simple passive, greatly adds to the strength of 
the expression. 

16. Jehovah, in distress they visited thie ; they uttered a whis- 
per ; thy chastisement was on them. It was not merely after 
their deliverance that they turned from idols unto God. Their 
deliverance itself was owing to their humble prayers. Visit is 
here used in the unusual but natural sense of seeking God in 
supplication. The translation they uttered a whisper is not 
only admissible but beautifully expressive of submissive hum- 
ble prayer, like that of Hannah when she spake in her heart and 
only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard, although, as she 
said herself, she poured out her soul before God, which is the exact 
sense of the word in this place. A like expression is applied 
to prayer in the title of Psalm 102. It is implied, though not 
expressed, that their prayer was humble and submissive because 
they felt that what they suffered was a chastisement from God. 


17. As when a pregnant (woman) draws near to the birth, she 
writhes, she cries out in her pangs ; so have we been, from thy pres* 
ence, oh Jehovah! Before we thus cast ourselves upon thy 
mercy in submissive prayer, we tried to deliver ourselves, bat 
only to the aggravation of our sufferings. The comparison here 
used is not intended simply to denote extreme pain, as it # is in 
many other cases, but as the next verse clearly shows, the pain 
arising from ineffectual efforts to relieve themselves. The 
great majority of writers apply this verse to the condition of 
the exiles. The translation from thy presence is to be preferred ; 
but whether with the accessory idea of removal, alienation, or 
with that of infliction, is a question not determined by the 
phrase itself, but either left uncertain or to be decided by the 

18. We were in travail, we were in pain, as it were we brought 
forth wind. Deliverances we could not make the land, nor would 
the inhabitants of the world fall. The figure introduced in the 
preceding verse is here carried out and applied. The second 
clause admits of several different constructions The simplest 
supplies a preposition before land, in or for the land. The 
one now commonly adopted is, ws could not make the land safety, 
i. e. could not make it safe or save it. The future form of the 
verb has respect to the period described. As the people then 
might have said, we shall not save the land, so the same expres- 
sion is here put into their mouths retrospectively. The best 
equivalent in English is the potential or subjunctive form, we 
could not. The foregoing context, as we have seen, relates to 
the period of captivity itself. Those who suppose the exile 
itself to be the time in question, understand by world the 
Babylonian empire as in ch. 13 : 11. 

19. Thy dead shall live, my corpses shall arise; (awake and 
sing ye that dwell in the dust !) for the dew of herbs is thy dew, 


and (on) the earth, (on) the dead, thou wili cause it to fall This 
yerse is in the strongest contrast with the one before it. To 
the ineffectual efforts of the people to save themselves, he now 
opposes their actual deliverance by God. They shall rise be- 
cause they are thy dead, i e. thy dead people. Some supply a 
preposition {with my dead body), which construction is adopted 
in the English Version, but is now commonly abandoned as in- 
congruous and wholly arbitrary. Neither the Prophet, nor the 
house of Israel, in whose name he is speaking, could refer to 
their own body as distinct from the bodies of Jehovah's dead 
ones. Awake etc. is a joyful apostrophe to the dead, after 
which the address to Jehovah is resumed. The reference to 
the dew is intended to illustrate the vivifying power of God. 
The obvious meaning of the words is an expression of strong 
confidence and hope, or rather of prophetic foresight, that God 
mil raise the dead, that his life-giving influence will be exerted. 
The question now arises, what resurrection is referred to ? All 
the answers to this question may be readily reduced to three. 
The first is, that the prophet means the general resurrection 
of the dead, or according to an old rabbinical tradition, the 
exclusive resurrection of the righteous, at the last day. The 
second is, that he refers to a resurrection of the Jews already 
dead, not as an actual or possible event, but as a passionate ex- 
pression of desire that the depopulated land might be replen- 
ished with inhabitants. The third is, that he represents the 
restoration of the exiles and of the theocracy under the figure 
of a resurrection, as Paul says the restoration of Israel to God's 
favour will be life from the dead. The figurative exposition 
seems decidedly entitled to the preference. This national 
address to God could not be more suitably wound up, or in a 
manner more in keeping with the usage of the prophecies, 
than by a strong expression of belief, that God would raise his 
people from the dust of degradation and oppression, where 
they had long seemed dead though only sleeping. 


20. Go, my poeple, enter into thy chambers, and shut thy doors 
after thee, hide thyself far a little moment, tdl the wrath be past. 
Haying wound up the expectations of the people to a lull be* 
lief of future restoration from their state of civil and religious 
death, the Prophet by an exquisite transition intimates, that 
this event is not yet immediately at hand, that this relief from 
the effects of Gods displeasure with his people must be pre- 
ceded by the experience of the displeasure itself that it is still 
a time of indignation, and that till this is elapsed the promise 
cannot be fulfilled. This painful postponement of the promised 
resurrection could not be more tenderly or beautifully intimated 
than in this fine apostrophe. The English Version (as it were) 
is incorrect The period of suffering is described as very small 
in comparison with what had gone before and what should fol- 
low it, as St. Paul says (Rom. 8 : 18) that the sufferings of this 
present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which 
shall be revealed in us. 

21. For behold, Jehovah (is) coming out of his place, to visit the 
iniquity of the inhabitant of the earth upon him, and the earth shall 
disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain. This is a 
reason both for expecting ultimate deliverance and for patiently 
awaiting it The reason is that God has a work of chastisement 
to finish, first upon his own people, and then upon their ene- 
mies. During the former process, let the faithful hide them- 
selves until the wrath be past When the other begins, let 
them lift up their heads, for their redemption draweth nigh 
This large interpretation of the verse is altogether natural and 
more satisfactory than those which restrict it either to the 
judgments upon Israel or to those upon Babylon. On the lat- 
ter the eye of the Prophet chiefly rests, especially at last, so 
that the closing words may be applied almost exclusively to 
the retribution which awaited the Chaldean for the slaughter 
of God's people. The blood, which the earth had long since 


drunk in, should as it were be vomited up, and the bodies of 
the murdered, which had long been buried, should be now dis- 
closed to view. 


This chapter is an amplification of the last verse of the one 
preceding, and contains a fuller statement both of Israel's chas- 
tisements and of Jehovah's judgments on his enemies. The 
destruction of the latter is foretold as the slaughter of a huge 
sea-monster, and contrasted with God's care of his own people 
even when afflicting them, vs. 1-5. Hereafter Israel shall 
flourish, and even in the mean time his sufferings are far less 
than those of his oppressors, vs. 6, 7. The former is visited 
in moderation, for a time, and with the happiest effect, vs. 8, 9. 
The latter is finally and totally destroyed, vs. 10, 11. This 
shall be followed by the restoration of the scattered Jews, vs. 
12, 13. 

1. In that day shall Jehovah visit, with his sword, the hard, the 
great, the strong (sword), upon Leviathan the swift (or flying) 
serpent, and upon Leviathan the coiled (or crooked) serpent, and 
shall slay the dragon which (is) in the sea. The leviathan and 
dragon of this verse are probably descriptive of a great op- 
pressive power, with particular allusion to the Babylonian em- 
pire. Assuming this to be the general meaning of the verse, 
that of its mere details becomes either easy or comparatively 
unimportant. The word leviathan, which from its etymology 
appears to mean contorted, coiled, is sometimes used to denote 
particular species (e. g. the crocodile), and sometimes as a gen- 
eric term for huge aquatic animals, or the larger kinds of ser- 


pents, in which sense the corresponding term serpeni is also 
used. They both appear to be employed in this case to express 
the indefinite idea of a formidable monster, which is in fact the 
sense now commonly attached to the word dragon. The second 
epithet means tortuous, either with respect to the motion of , the 
serpent, or to its appearance when at rest The only explana- 
tion of the other epithet which is folly justified by Hebrew 
usage is that of fugitive or fleeing, which may either be a poetical 
equivalent to fleet, or descriptive of the monster as a flying ser- 
pent. For the meaning of the phrase to visit upon, see above, 
ok 13 : 11. The sword is a common emblem for the instru- 
ments of the divine vengeance. 

2. On the explanation of this verse depends that of a large 
part of the chapter. The two points upon which all turns, are 
the meaning of the Hebrew word translated sing, and the ref- 
erence of the pronoun her. The only supposition which will 
meet the difficulties of the case, is the one adopted by most of 
the old writers, to wit, that the pronoun refers to Jerusalem 
or the daughter of Zion, i. e. to the church or people of God 
considered as his spouse (ch. 1 : 21). This reference to a sub- 
ject not expressly mentioned might be looked upon as arbitrary, 
but for the fact that the assumption of it is attended with fewer 
difficulties than the construction which it supersedes. As to 
the other word, tradition and authority are almost unanimous 
in giving it the sense of sing and regarding what follows as a 
song. To this exposition there are several objections. In the 
first place, no one has been able to determine with precision 
where the song concludes, some choosing one place for its ter- 
mination, some another. This would of course prove nothing 
in a clear case, but in a case like this it raises a presumption 
that a song, of which the end cannot be found, has no be- 
ginning. But in the next place, it is easy to see why the 
end cannot be easily defined, to wit, because there is nothing in 


the next three, four, or five verses to distinguish them as being 
any more a song than what precedes and follows, whether with 
respect to imagery, rhythm, or diction. In the third place, 
the presumption thus created and confirmed is corroborated 
further by the obvious incongruity of making the song, which 
the people are supposed to sing, begin with I Jehovah keep it etc. 
Out of fifty-six cases in which the Hebrew word occurs, there are 
only three in which the seuse of singing is conceivable, and of 
these three one (Ps 88 : 1) is the enigmatical title of a Psalm ; 
another (Ex. 32 : 18) is so dubious that the one sense is almost 
as appropriate as the other, and the third is that before us. 
On such grounds the assumption of the meaning sing could 
hardly be justified, even if it were far more appropriate to the 
context than the common one. But in the last place, while 
the supposition of a song, as we have seen, embarrasses the ex- 
position, the usual meaning of the verb is perfectly appropriate. 
This meaning is to afflict, and especially to afflict in an humbling 
and degrading manner. This may seem to be utterly at vari- 
ance with the context as it is commonly explained ; but the 
common explanation rests on the supposititious meaning of the 
verb, and cannot therefore be alleged in favour of that mean- 
ing. On the usual hypothesis, the verse exhorts the people to 
sing to the vineyard or the church ; on the one now proposed, 
it challenges her enemies to do their worst, declaring that God 
still protects her. This explanation of the verse agrees well 
with the distinct allusions to the punishment of Israel in vs. 
4, 7, 8, 9, which would be comparatively out of place in a song 
of triumph or gratulation. Against this explanation of the 
verse lies the undivided weight of tradition and authority, so 
far as I can trace the exposition of the passage. So unanimous 
a judgment might be looked upon as perfectly decisive of the 
question but for two considerations ; first, that the proposed 
interpretation removes a variety of difficulties, not by forsaking 
usage but by returning to it ; and secondly, that none of the 



interpreters consulted seem to have adverted to the facts al- 
ready stated, with respect to the usage of the Hebrew word 
As the result of this investigation, we may now translate the 
verse as follows. In that day, as a vineyard of vrine, afflict her, 
or, in that day afflict for her the vineyard of wine. It is then ft 
defiance or permission of the enemies of the church to afflict 
her, with an intimation that in carrying out this idea, the ex- 
pressions will be borrowed from the figure of a vineyard, as in 
ch. 5 : 1-6. 

3. I Jehovah (am) keeping her ; every moment I witt water 
her ; lest any hurt her, night and day will I keep her. That is, 
in spite of the afflictions which befall her I will still preserve 
her from destruction The antecedent of the pronouns is the 
same as in v. 2, viz. the church or nation considered as a vine- 
yard. To visit upon has here its common meaning of inflicting 
evil upon, but without any special reference to crime or punish- 
ment. As the expression is a relative one, it must here be 
understood according to the context, as denoting fatal or at 
least excessive injury. 

4. Fury is not in me : wlw would set the briers and thorn 
against me in battle ? I would go through them, I would burn them 
together. Of all the senses put upon this difficult verse, there 
are only two which can be looked upon as natural or probable. 
The first may be paraphrased as follows ; it is not because I am 
cruel or revengeful that I thus afflict my people, but because 
she is a vineyard overrun with thorns or briers, on account of 
which I must pass through her and consume her (i e. burn 
them out of her). The other is this : I am no longer angry 
with my people ; oh that their enemies (as thorns and briers) 
would array themselves against me, that I might rush upon 
them and consume them. This last is preferred by most of tho 


later writers. The objection that no longer has to be supplied 
la of little weight. 

5. Or let him lay hold of my strength and make peace with me ; 
peace let him make with me. The verbs are properly indefinite 
(let one take hold etc.) bat referring to the enemy described in 
the preceding verse as thorns and briers. The word translated 
strength commonly denotes a strong place or fortress, and is 
here understood by most interpreters to signify a refuge or 
asylum, with allusion to the practice of laying hold upon the 
altar. The alternative presented to the enemy is that of de- 
struction or submission. If the thorns and briers of v. 4 be 
deferred to the internal condition of the church, this may be 
understood as having reference to the church itself, which is 
then called upon to make its peace with God as the only means 
of escaping further punishment. 

6. (In) coming (days) shall Jacob take root, Israel shall bud 
and blossom, and they shall fill the face of the earth with fruit. 
The construction of the first clause in the English Bible (them 
that come of Jacob shall he cause to take root) is forbidden by the 
collocation of the words, and by the usage of the verb, which 
always means to take root. 

7. Like the smiting of his smiter did he smite him, or like the 
slaying of his slain was he slain 1 Having declared in the pre- 
ceding verse that Israel should hereafter flourish, he now adds 
that even in the meantime he should suffer vastly less than his 
oppressors. Negation, as in many other cases, is expressed by 
interrogation. Did the Lord smite Israel as he smote his 
smiters, or slay him as his murderers were slain ? 

8. In measure, by sending her away, thou dost contend with her. 
He removes her by his hard wind in the day of the east wind. The 


negation implied in the preceding verse is here expressed 
more distinctly. The Prophet now proceeds to show that Israel 
was not dealt with like his enemies, by first describing what the 
former suffered, then what the latter. Israel was punished 
moderately, and for a time, by being removed out of his place, 
as if by a transient storm or blast of wind. The east wind is 
mentioned as the most tempestuous in Palestine. The day of 
the east wind is supposed by some to denote the season of the 
year when it prevails ; but it is rather used to intimate the 
temporary nature of the chastisement, as if he had said, one 
day when the east wind chanced to blow. 

9. Therefore (because his chastisement was temporary and 
remedial in design) by this (affliction) shall Jacob's iniquity be 
expiated (i. e. purged away), and this is all (its) fruit (or in- 
tended effect), to take away his sin, (as will appear) in his placing 
all the stones of the (idolatrous) altar like limestones dashed in 
pieces, (so that) groves and solar images (or images of Ashtoreth 
and Baal) shall arise no more The contrast between Israel 
and Babylon is still continued. Having said that the affliction 
of the former was but moderate and temporary, he now adds 
that it was meant to produce a most beneficent effect, to wit, 
the purgation of the people from the foul stain of idolatry. 
The sense required by the connection is, not that the breaking 
of the altars, as a spontaneous act, atoned for Israel's previous 
idolatry, but that the exile cured them of that vice, and thereby 
led to the breaking of the altars 

10. For a fenced (or fortified) city shall be desolate, a dwelling 
broken up and forsaken like the wilderness. There shall the calf 
feed, and there shall it lie and consume her branches. Here be- 
gins the other part of the comparison. While Israel is chas- 
tised in measure and with the happiest effect, his oppressors 
are given up to final desolation. This explanation of the 


verse, as referring to Babylon, is strongly recommended by the 
fact, that the comparison otherwise remains unfinished, only 
one side of it haying been presented. Apart from this con- 
sideration, there are certainly strong reasons for supposing the 
city meant to be Jerusalem itself. One of these reasons is, that 
the figure of a vineyard seems to be still present to the writer's 
mind, at the close of this verse and throughout the text, al- 
though the terms used admit of a natural application to the 
figure of a tree. Another reason is, that the desolation here 
described is not so total as that threatened against Babylon in 
ch. 13 : 19-22, where instead of saying it shall be a pasture, it 
is said expressly that it shall not even be frequented by flocks 
or herds. But these two places may have reference to different 
degrees of desolation. In favour of the reference to Babylon 
may be alleged the natural consecution of the twelfth verse 
upon that hypothesis. On the whole, the question may be 
looked upon as doubtful, but as not materially affecting the 
interpretation of the chapter, since either of the two events 
supposed to be foretold would be appropriate in this connec- 

11. In the withering of its boughs (or when its boughs are with- 
ered) they shall be broken off, women coming and burning them ; 
because it is not a people of understanding, therefore its creator shall 
not pity it, and its maker shall not have mercy on it. The de- 
struction of Babylon is still described, but under the figure of 
a tree, whose branches are withered and cast into the fire. 
Women are mentioned, not in allusion to the weakness of the 
instruments by which Babylon was to be destroyed, but be- 
cause the gathering of firewood in the east is the work of 
women and children. According to the usage of the Scrip- 
tures, not wise here means foolish in the strongest sense, and 
God's not pitying and having mercy is equivalent to his being 
very wroth and taking vengeance. 


19. And it shall be in that day, that Jehovah shall beat of(vt 
gather in his fruit), from the channel of the river to the stream of 
Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one (or one to another), oh 
ye children of Israel. To the downfall of Babylon he now adds, 
M in eh. 11 : 1, its most important consequence, the resto- 
ration of the Jews. The idea meant to be conveyed is that 
of a careful and complete ingathering. Stream of Egypt is 
now commonly agreed to signify the Wady Elarish, anciently 
called Rhinocorura, which name is given to it here by the Sep- 
tuagint. The river is as usual the Euphrates. The simple 
meaning of the whole expression ib, from Assyria to Egypt, both 
which are expressly mentioned in the next verse. The precise 
sense of the Hebrew phrase in the latter part of the verse is 
not well expressed by the English one by one, which seems to 
represent the process as a gradual one. It rather denotes one 
to one, i e. in our idiom, one to another, all together, or without 
exception. From what has been already said it will be seen, 
that the boundaries named are not intended to define the ter- 
ritory which should be occupied by those returning, but the 
regions whence they should return, which explanation is con- 
firmed moreover by the explicit terms of the next verse. 

13. And it shall be (or come to pass) in that day, (that) a great 
trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come that were lost (or wan- 
dering) in the land of Assyria, and those cast out (or exiled) in the 
land of Egypt, and shall bow down to Jehovah, in the holy moun- 
tain, vn Jerusalem. The same event is here described as in the 
verse preceding, but with a change of figure. What is there 
represented as a gathering of olives by beating the tree, is now 
represented as a gathering of men by the blast of a trumpet, 
which here takes the place of a signal-pole or flag in ch. 11:12. 
This variety of forms, in which the same idea is expressed, 
clearly shows the whole description to be figurative. Assyria 


and Egypt may be either put for foreign countries generally, 
or with particular allusion to the actual emigration and disper- 
sion of the Jews in these two regions. Assyria may here be 
used as a comprehensive term, in order to include both the 
Assyrian and Babylonian deportations. For although the ten 
tribes never were restored, individual members of them found 
their way back with the Jews from Babylon. On the whole, 
however, it is probable that Egypt and Assyria are here named, 
just as Babylonia and the islands of the sea might have been 
named instead of them, and just as all these names and others 
are connected elsewhere, to denote the various lands where 
Jews were scattered. The emigration of the people, especially 
after- Nebuchadnezzar's conquests, was of course not confined 
to their actual deportation by the enemy, nor was the restora- 
tion merely that of such as had been thus carried captive, but 
of all who, in consequence of that catastrophe or any other, 
had been transferred to foreign parts by exile, flight, or volun- 
tary expatriation. The application of this verse to a future 
restoration of the Jews can neither be established nor dis- 
proved. If such a restoration can be otherwise shown to be a 
subject of prophecy, this passage may be naturally understood 
at least as comprehending it. But in itself considered, it ap- 
pears to contain nothing which may not be naturally applied to 
events long past, or which has not found in those events an 
adequate fulfilment. 


CHAPTER 1X7111. 


Samaria, the crown of Ephraim, shall be oast down by a 
sudden and impetuous invasion, as a just judgment upon sensual 
and impious Israel, vs. 1-4. To the remnant of Israel, Jeho- 
vah will himself be a crown and a protection, a source of wis- 
dom and of strength, vs. 5, 6. Yet even these imitate the 
example of apostate Israel, and in their self-indulgence cast 
off the authority of God and refuse the instructions of his 
prophet, to their own undoing, vs. 7-13. But their impious 
contempt of God and self-reliance shall but hasten their de- 
struction. All who do not build upon the sure foundation laid 
in Zion, must inevitably perish as the enemies of Israel were 
destroyed of old, vs. 14-22. The delay of judgment no more 
proves that it will never come, than the patience of the hus- 
bandman, and his preparatory labours, prove that he expects 
no harvest ; and the difference of God's dealings with different 
men is no more inconsistent with his general purposes of wrath 
or mercy, than the husbandman's treatment of the different 
grains is inconsistent with his general purpose of securing and 
enjoying them, vs. 23-29. 

1. Woe to the high crown of the drunkards of Ephraim, and 
the fading flower, his ornament of beauty, which (is) on the head of 
the fat valley of the wine-smitten. Here, as in ch. 9 : 9, 21. 1 1 : 13, 
we are to understand by Ephraim the kingdom of the ten 
tribes, by the drunkards of Ephraim its vicious population, and 
by the lofty crown the city of Samaria, so called as the chief 
town and the royal residence, but also with allusion to its local 
situation on an insulated hill overlooking a rich plain or valley. 
" It would be difficult to find, in all Palestine, a situation of 


equal strength, fertility, and beauty combined." (Robinson's 
Palestine, III. 146.) Most interpreters assume a further allu- 
sion to the practice of wearing wreaths or garlands at feasts. 
The reference to literal intoxication appears plain from a com- 
parison of Amos 4 : 1, 6 : 1, 6. Drunkenness is mentioned, 
not as the only prevalent iniquity, but as a crying one. and one 
contributing to many others. The moral and spiritual con- 
sequences of this vice must be taken into view ; but the ex- 
clusive reference of the words to spiritual drunkenness, 
whether delusion or stupidity or both, seems entirely untenable. 
This verse contains three examples of the Hebrew idiom, 
which, instead of an adjective, uses one substantive to qualify 
another ; crown of elevation for lofty crown, beauty of glory for 
glorious beauty, and valley of fatnesses for fat valley. The lat- 
ter member of the first clause is by some construed thus, and 
the flower whose glorious beauty fades ; by others, for example the 
English Version, (Ephraim) whose glorious beauty is a fading 
flower. The analogy of v. 4 seems to show, however, that this 
member of the sentence is in apposition with the one before it, 
which construction is moreover the most obvious and simple. 
The English Version also mars the beauty of the first clause, 
by making drunkards of Ephraim not a genitive but a dative. 
The fading flower implies that the glory of Samaria was tran- 
sient, with particular allusion to its approaching overthrow by 
Shalmaneser. Wine-smitten or wine-stricken is a strong de- 
scription of the intellectual and moral effects of drunken- 
ness. Gill's lively paraphrase is, " smitten, beaten, knocked 
down with it as with a hammer, and laid prostrate on the 
ground, where they lie fixed to it, not able to get up." 

2. Behold, there is to the Lord (i. e. the Lord has) a strong and 
mighty one, like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest, like a storm 
of mighty rushing waters, he has brought (it) to the ground with 
•the hand. The meaning to the earth or to the ground is clear 



from oh. 63 : 6, and other cases. The crown of Ephraim. k 
described as torn from his head and thrown upon the ground 
by the hand of a victorious enemy. To this explanation up 
objection can be drawn from the previous mention of the hail 
and rain ; for these are mere comparisons, descriptive of the 
violence with which the enemy should make his attack. It is 
as if he had said, a strong and mighty enemy, rushing upon you 
like a hail-storm or a driving rain, shall cast your crown upon 
the' earth with his hand. 

3. With the feet shall be trodden the lofty crown of the drunk- 
ards of Ephraim. It is cast down by the hand and trampled 
under foot. 

4. And the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is cm the 
head of the fat valley, shall be like a first-ripe fig, which he that 
sees it sees, and while it is yet in his hand swallows it. This com- 
parison expresses the avidity with which the enemy would seize 
upon Samaria, and perhaps the completeness of its desolation: 
The fruit referred to is the early fig of Palestine which ripens 
in June, while the regular season of ingathering is from August 
to November, so that the former is regarded as a rarity and 
eaten with the greater relish. The figure is not here intended 
to express either ease or rapidity of conquest, for the siege of 
Samaria lasted three years (2 Kings 17 : 5). The immediate 
eating of the fruit is only mentioned as a sign of eagerness or 
greediness. The last clause, though singularly worded, evi- 
dently means that as soon as one sees it and lays hold of it he 
swallows it without delay, or as Gill expresses it in homespun 
English, " as soon as he has got it into his hand, he can't keep 
it there to look at, or forbear eating it, but greedily devours it 
and swallows it down at once." 

5. In that day shall Jehovah of Hosts be for (or become) a crown 


tf beauty and a diadem of glory to the remnant of his people. The 
true sense appears to be that after Samaria, the pride of the 
apostate tribes, had fallen, they who still remained as mem- 
bers of the church or chosen people should glory and delight in 
the presence of Jehovah as their choicest privilege and highest 
honour. The expressions are borrowed from the first verse but 
presented in a new combination. 

6. And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, 
and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate. This, 
which is the common English Version, coincides with that of 
the latest and best writers. In judgment, I e. for the purpose 
of judging. The last words of the verse are applied by all the 
later writers to those who drive the war back to the enemy's 
own gates, or as it were carry it into his own country. The 
two great requisites of civil government are here described as 
coming from Jehovah. The Spirit of this verse is not a mere 
influence, but God himself. 

7. And (yet) these also (or even these) through wine have erred, 
and through strong drink have gone astray. Priest and Prophet 
have erred through strong drink , have been swallowed up of wine, 
have been led astray by strong drink, have erred in vision, have 
wavered in judgment. Having predicted in the foregoing verse, 
that when Ephraim fell Judah should continue to enjoy the 
protection of Jehovah, the Prophet now describes even this 
favoured remnant as addicted to the same sins which had has* 
tened the destruction of the ten tribes, viz. sensual indulgence 
and the spiritual evils which it generates The meaning then 
is that the Jews, although distinguished from the ten tribes by 
God's sparing mercy, should nevertheless imitate them in their 
sins. There is great probability in the suggestion, that the 
prophecy refers to the national deterioration in the reign of 
Hanasseh. The Priest and Prophet are named as the leaders 


of the people, and as those who were peculiarly bound to set a 
better example. The reference to judgment in the last clause 
nay be explained, either on the ground that the Priest and 
Prophet represent the rulers of the people in general, or be- 
cause the Priests themselves exercised judicial functions in cer- 
tain prescribed cases (Deut 17 : 9. 19 : 17). The use of strong 
drinks was expressly forbidden to the priests in the discharge 
of their official functions (Lev. 10 : 9. Ezek. 44 : 21). 

8. For all tables are full of vomit, of filth, without a place (i. e. 
a clean place). The only natural interpretation is that which 
supposes tables to denote the places where men eat and drink, 
and the other terms the natural though revolting consequences 
of excess. Whether the intoxication thus described is wholly 
spiritual, depends of course upon the meaning given to the 
preceding verse. The sense of the last clause is correctly 
though diffusely given in the English Version (so that there is 
no place clean). 

9. Whom will he teach knowledge ? And whom will he make to 
understand doctrine ? Those weaned from the milk and removed from 
the breasts. The older Christian writers understand this as 
descriptive of the persons whom Jehovah, or the Prophet acting 
in his name, would choose as proper subjects of instruction, 
viz. simple and childlike disciples, who as new-born babes desire 
the sincere milk of the word (1 Pet. 2 : 2). But the children here 
described are weanlings not sucklings, and on this hypothesis 
the weaning, which is so particularly mentioned, would have no 
significancy. Besides, this explanation of the words would not 
suit the context, either before or after. It is therefore com- 
monly agreed, that the last clause must be taken in a contemp- 
tuous or unfavourable sense, as denoting children not in malice 
merely but in understanding (1 Cor. 14:20). The verse has 
been explained by some, as the language not of the Prophet 


'lml of the wicked men before described, expressing their indig- 
Batioo and contempt at the Prophet's undertaking to instruct 
them as if they were mere children. Whom does he undertake 
to teach ? and whom would he make to understand his doc- 
trine? Children weaned from the milk and removed from the 
breast? This interpretation has in substance been adopted by 
all later writers, as affording a good sense and one admirably 
suited both to the foregoing and the following context. It seems 
to be liable to only two objections ; first, that it gratuitously 
gives the passage a dramatic form by supposing a new speaker 
to be introduced without any intimation in the text ; and then, 
that it arbitrarily continues the interrogation through the sen- 
tence. The last objection may be obviated by adopting the 
construction, which supposes them to ask not whom he would 
but whom he ought to teach, and then to answer, little children 
just weaned from the breast, not men of mature age and equal 
to himself. The other objection, being wholly negative, must 
yield of course to the positive arguments in favour of an expo- 
sition which is otherwise coherent, satisfactory, and suited to 
the context. 

10. For (it is) rule upon rule, rule upon rule, line upon line, line 
upon line, a little here, a little there. The interpretation of this 
verse varies of course with that of the one before it. As all the 
latest writers make v. 9 the language of the Jews themselves, 
complaining of the Prophet's perpetual reproofs and teachings, 
they are equally agreed in making v. 10 a direct continuation 
of the same complaint The construction in the English Ver- 
sion (precept upon precept) is good, except that the word precept 
is too long to represent the chosen monosyllables of the ori- 
ginal. Here a little, there a little, is expressive of minuteness 
and perpetual repetition. 

1 1. For with stammering lips and with another tongue wiU he 


speak unto tku people. As the words translated stammering 
may denote either foreign or scoffing Bpeeoh (the former being 
usually described in the Old Testament as stammering), some 
suppose a double allusion here, to wit, that as they had mocked 
at the divine instructions by their Btammering speech, so he 
would speak to them in turn by the stammering lips of foreign- 
ers in another language than their own. This, though by no 
means an obvious construction in itself, is preferred by the 
latest writers and countenanced by several analogous expres- 
sions in the subsequent context. 

12. Who said to them, this is rest, give rest to the weary, and this 
is quiet, but they would not hear. The judgments threatened in 
the foregoing verse were the more evidently just because he 
who threatened them had warned the people and pointed out 
to them the only way to happiness. The sense is not, that the 
true way to rest is to give rest to the weary ; the latter expres- 
sion is a kind of parenthesis, as if he had said, this is the true 
rest, let the weary enjoy it. By this we are therefore to under 
stand, not compassion and kindness to the suffering, but obe- 
dience to the will of God in general. This is the true rest which 
I alone can give, and the way to which I have clearly marked 
out To give rest to the weary means simply to reduce to prac- 
tice the lesson which God had taught them. This is the way 
to peace, let those who wish it walk therein. In the last clause, 
would is not a mere auxiliary, but an independent and emphatic 
verb, they were not willing. 

13. And the word of Jehovah was to them rule upon rule, line 
upon line, a little here, a little there, that they might go, and fall 
backwards, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. The law 
was given that sin might abound. The only effect of the minute 
instructions, which they found so irksome, was to aggravate 
their guilt and condemnation. The terms of the first clause 


are repeated from v. 10, and have of course the same meaning 
in both plaoeB. 

14. Therefore (because your advantages have only made you 
more rebellious) hear the word of Jehovah, ye scornful men (lite- 

•rally men of scorn, i. e. despisers of the truth), the rulers of this 
people which is in Jerusalem (or ye rulers of this people who are 
in Jerusalem). This people, here as elsewhere, may be an ex- 
pression of displeasure and contempt. Jerusalem is mentioned 
as the seat of government and source of influence. The whole 
verse invites attention to the solemn warning which follows. 

15. Because ye have said (in thought or deed if not in word), 
we have made a covenant with death, and with hell (the grave, or 
the unseen world) have formed a league ; the overflowing scourge, 
when it passes through, shall not come upon us, for we have made 
falsehood our refuge, and in fraud we have hid ourselves. The 
meaning evidently is, that if their actions were translated 
into words, this would be their import The mixed metaphor 
of an overflowing scourge combines two natural and common 
figures for severe calamity. The falsehood mentioned in the last 
clause is unfaithfulness .to God, i. e. wickedness in general, per- 
haps with an allusion to the falsity or treacherous nature of the 
hopes built upon it. The translation under falsehood, which is 
given in the English Bible and in some other versions, is nei- 
ther justified by usage nor required by the connection. 

1 6 Therefore thus saith the lard Jehovah, Behold I lay in Zion 
a stone, a stone of proof, a corner stone of value of a firm founda- 
tion ; the believer will not be in haste. To the words of the scoffers 
are now opposed the words of God himself. Because you say 
thus and thus, therefore the Lord says in reply what follows. 
You trust for safety in your own delusions ; on the contrary I 
lay a sure foundation, and no other can be laid. This founda- 


iion 10 the Messiah, to whom it is repeatedly and explicitly 

applied in the New Testament (Rom. 9 : 33. 10 : 1 1. 1 Peter 2: 

6). The phrase literally rendered stone of proof admits of two 

interpretations. Some understand by it a stone which was to be 

the test or Btandard of comparison for others ; bat the common 

explanation is more natural, which makes it mean a stone that* 

has itself been proved or tried and found sufficient. Will rut 

be in haste, i. e. will not be impatient, but will trust the promise, 

even though its execution be delayed. The force of the figures 

in thiB verse is much enhanced by the statements of modern 

travellers in relation to the immense stones still remaining at 

the foundation of ancient walls. (See particularly Robinson's 

Palestine, I. 343, 351, 422.) 

1 7. And I will place judgment for a line and justice for a plum- 
met, and hail shall sweep away the refuge of falsehood, and the 
hiding-place waters shall overflow. The meaning of the first clause 
is, that God would deal with them in strict justice ; he would 
make justice the rule of his proceedings, as the builder regu- 
lates his work by the line and plummet. The English Version 
seems to make judgment or justice not the measure but the 
thing to be measured. Hail and rain are here used, as in v. 2 
above, to denote the divine visitations. The refuge and the 
hiding-place are those of which the scornful men had boasted 
in v. 15. To their confident assurance of safety God opposes, 
first, the only sure foundation which himself had laid, and then 
the utter destruction which was coming on their own chosen 
objects of reliance. 

18. And your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your 
league with hell shall not stand, and the overflowing scourge—for 
it shall pass through, and ye shall be for it to trample on. In the 
last clause, the construction seems to be interrupted. Sup- 
posing it to be complete, it may be explained as in the Eng- 


liah Version, which makes both the words in question particles 
of time meaning when and then. There can be no doubt that 
the idea of a human invader was before the Prophet's mind ; 
bat the mere rhetorical incongruity is not at all at variance with 
the Prophet's manner. The attempt to reconcile the language 
with the artificial rules of composition is in this case rendered 
hopeless by the combination of expressions which cannot bo 
strictly applied to the same subject. An army might trample, 
but it could not literally overflow ; a stream might overflow, 
but it could not literally trample down. The time perhaps is 
coming when, even as a matter of taste, the strength and vivid- 
ness of such mixed metaphors will be considered as outweigh- 
ing their inaccuracy in relation to an arbitrary standard of 
correctness or propriety. 

19. As soon (or as often) as it passes through, it shall take you 
(or carry you away) ; for in the morning, in the morning (i. e. 
every morning), it shall pass through, in the day and in the night, 
and only vexation (or distress) shall be the understanding of the 
thing heard. The meaning may be that the threatened visita- 
tion shall come soon and be frequently repeated. There are 
three interpretations of the last clause, one of which supposes 
it to mean, that the mere report of the approaching scourge 
should fill them with distress ; another, that the effect of the 
report should be unmixed distress ; a third, that nothing but a 
painful experience would enable them to understand the lesson 
which the Prophet was commissioned to teach them. The last 
words may of course denote either rumour or revelation. The 
latter seems to be the meaning in v. 9, where the noun stands 
connected with the same verb as here. Whether this verb ever 
means simply to perceive or hear, may be considered doubtful ; 
if not. the preference is due to the third interpretation above 
given, viz. that nothing but distress or suffering could make 
them understand or even attend to the message from Jehovah. 


20. For the bed is too short to stretch one's self, and the covering 
too narrow to wrap one 9 s self. This is probably a proverbial de- 
scription of a perplexed and comfortless condition. Tbe con- 
nection with the foregoing verse is this : yon cannot fully under- 
stand the lessons which I teach you now until your bed becomes 
too short, etc. 

21. For like Mount Perazim shall Jehovah rise up, like the 
valley in Gibeon shall he rage, to do his work, his strange work, 
and to perform his task, his strange task. Into such a condition 
as that just described they shall be brought, for some of the 
most fearful scenes of ancient history are yet to be repeated. 
Interpreters are not agreed as to the precise events referred to 
in the first clause. The common opinion is, that it alludes to 
the slaughter of the Philistines described in 2 Sam. 5 : 18-25 
and I Chron. 14 : 9-16, in the latter of which places Gibeon is 
substituted for Geba. The valley meant will then be the val- 
ley of Rephaim. That these were foreigners and heathen, only 
adds to the force of the threatening, by making it to mean that 
as God had dealt with these in former times, he was now about 
to deal with the unbelieving and unfaithful sons of Israel It 
is indeed not only implied but expressed, that he intended to 
depart from his usual mode of treating them, in which sense 
the judgments here denounced are called a strange work, i. e. 
foreign from the ordinary course of divine providence. The 
idea that punishment is God's strange work because at variance 
with his goodness, is not only less appropriate in this connec- 
tion, but inconsistent with the tenor of Scripture, which de- 
scribes his vindicatory justice as an essential attribute of his 

22. And now scoff not lest your bands be strong ; for a consump- 
tion and decree (or even a decreed consumption) I have heard from 
the Lord Jehovah of Hosts, against (or upon) the whole earth. 


Bands, i. e. bonds or chains, is a common figure for afflictions 
and especially for penal sufferings. To strengthen these bands 
is to aggravate the suffering. The last clause represents the 
threatened judgments as inevitable, because determined and re- 
vealed by God himself. The form of expression is partly bor- 
rowed from ch. 10 : 23. 

23. Give ear and hear my voice ; hearken and hear my speech. 
This formula invites attention to what follows as a new view of 
the subject. The remainder of the chapter contains an extended 
illustration drawn from the processes of agriculture. Inter- 
preters, although agreed as to the import of the figures, are 
divided with respect to their design and application. Some re- 
gard the passage as intended to illustrate, in a general way, 
the wisdom of the divine dispensations. Others refer it more 
specifically to the delay of judgment on the sinner, and conceive 
the doctrine of the passage to be this, that although God is not 
always punishing, any more than the husbandman is always 
ploughing or always threshing, he will punish at last. A third 
interpretation makes the prominent idea to be this, that al- 
though God chastises his own people, his ultimate design is not 
to destroy but to purify and save them. The preference is on 
the whole due to the second, which supposes the Prophet to ex- 
plain by this comparison the long forbearance of Jehovah, and 
to show that this forbearance was no reason for believing that 
his threatenings would never be fulfilled. As the husbandman 
ploughs and harrows, sows and plants, before he reaps and 
threshes, and in threshing employs different modes and differ- 
ent implements, according to the nature of the grain, so God 
allows the actual infliction of his wrath to be preceded by what 
seems to be a period of inaction but is really one of preparation, 
and conforms the strokes themselves to the capacity and guilt 
of the transgressor. 


24. Does the ploughman plough every day to sow T Does he 
open and level his ground ? The common version, all day, though 
it seemB to be a literal translation, does not oonvey the sense 
of the original expression, which is used both here and else- 
where to mean all the time or always. He may plough a whole 
day together when he is at it, but he does not plough every 
day in the year ; he has other work to do besides ploughing. 
(Gill.) The interrogation may be confined to the first clause, 
and the second construed as an exhortation : (no) let him open 
and level his ground. But as there is a difficulty then in ex- 
plaining what is meant by opening the ground, as distinct from 
opening the furrows with the plough, most interpreters suppose 
the interrogation to extend through the verse, and make the 
second clause a repetition of the first, with an additional refer- 
ence to harrowing. As if he had said, is the ploughman always 
ploughing ; is he always ploughing and harrowing ? 

25. Does he not, when he has levelled the surface of it, cast abroad 
dill, and scatter cummin, and set wheat in rows, and barley (in the 
place) marked out, and spelt in his border ? That is to say, he 
attends to all these processes of husbandry successively, with 
due regard to time and place, and to the various crops to be 
produced. The words do not denote an indiscriminate sowing, 
but a careful planting, which is said to be still practised in the 
oriental culture of wheat, and is thought by many to have 
been one of the causes of the wonderful fertility of Palestine 
in ancient times. 

26. So teaches him aright his God instructs him. This is the 
form of the Hebrew sentence, in which his God is the gram- 
matical subject of both the verbs between which it stands. The 
English idiom requires the noun to be prefixed, as in the com- 
mon version. The verse refers even agricultural skill to divine 


27. For not with the sledge must dill be threshed, or tne cart-wheel 
turned upon cummin ; for with the stick must dill be beaten, and 
cummin with the rod. Having drawn an illustration from the 
husbandman's regard to times and seasons, he now derives 
another from his different modes of threshing out the different 
kinds of grain. The semina infirmiora are not to be separated 
by the use of the ponderous sledge or wagon, both of which are 
common in the east, but by that of the flail or switch, as better 
suited to their nature. The minute description of the oriental 
threshing-machines belongs more properly to books of archae- 
ology, especially as nothing more is necessary here to the cor- 
rect understanding of the verse than a just view of the contrast 
intended between heavy and light threshing. 

28. Bread-corn must be crushed, for he will not be always thresh- 
ing it ; so he drives the wheel of his cart (upon it), but with his 
horsemen (or horses) he does not crush it. The sense of this verse 
is obscured by an apparent inconsistency between the opening 
and the closing words. The translation above given supposes 
a climax beginning in v. 27 and completed here. Dill and 
cummin must be threshed out with the flail ; wheat and barley 
may be more severely dealt with ; they will bear the wheel, but 
not the hoofs of horses. The first words and the last are then 
in strict agreement ; bread-corn must be bruised, but not with 
horses' hoofs. This is merely suggested as an additional attempt 
to elucidate a passage in detail, the general sense of which is 
clear enough. 

29. Even this (or this also) from Jehovah of Hosts comes forth ; 
he is wonderful in counsel, great in wisdom. The literal transla- 
tion of the last clause is, he makes counsel wonderful, he makes 
wisdom great. As to the meaning of the whole verse, some 
suppose that the preceding illustration is here applied to the 
divine dispensations ; others, that this is the conclusion of the 


illaBtratioD itself. On the latter hypothesis, the meaning of the 
verse is, that the husbandman's treatment of the crop, no less 
than his preparation of the soil, is a dictate of experience under 
divine teaching. In the other case, the sense is that the same 
mode of proceeding, which had just been described as that of a 
wise husbandman, is also practised by the Most High in the 
execution of his purposes. Against this, and in favour of the 
other explanation, it may be suggested, first, that coming forth 
from God is a phrase not so naturally suited to express his own 
way of acting as the influence which he exerts on others ; sec- 
ondly, that this verse seems to correspond, in form and sense, 
to v. 27, and to bear the same relation to the different modes 
of threshing that v. 27 does to the preparation of the ground 
and the sowing of the seed. Having there said of the latter, 
that the husbandman is taught of God, he now says of the former, 
that it also comes forth from the same celestial source. Ac- 
cording to the view which has now been taken of v. 29, the 
general application of the parable to God's dispensations is not 
formally expressed, but left to the reflection of the reader. 


This chapter consists of two parts, parallel to one another, 
i. e. each containing the same series of promises and threaten- 
ings, but in different forms. The prophetic substance or mate- 
rial of both is that Zion should be threatened and assailed yet 
not destroyed, but on the contrary strengthened and enlarged. 
These ideas are expressed in the second part much more fully 
and explicitly than in the first, which must therefore be inter- 
preted according to what follows. In the first part, the threat- 
ening is that Zion shall be assailed by enemies and brought 


very low. vs. 1-4. The promise is that the assailants shall be 
scattered like dust and chaff, vanish like a dream, and be wholly 
disappointed in their hostile purpose, vs. 5-8. In the second 
part, the Prophet brings distinctly into view, as causes of the 
threatened judgments, the spiritual intoxication and stupor of 
the people, their blindness to revealed truth, their hypocritical 
formality, and their presumptuous contempt of God, vs. 9-16. 
The judgment itself is described as a confounding of their fan- 
cied wisdom, v. 14. The added promise is that of an entire 
revolution, including the destruction of the wicked, and espe- 
cially of wicked rulers, the restoration of spiritual sight, joy to 
the meek and poor in spirit, and the final recovery of Israel 
from a state of alienation and disgrace to the service of Jehovah 
and to the saving knowledge of the truth, vs. 17-24. The only 
key to the consistent exposition of the chapter as a whole, is 
furnished by the hypothesis already stated, that the two parts 
are parallel, not merely successive, and that the second must 
explain the first. That the second part describes not physical 
but spiritual evils, is admitted on all hands, and indeed asserted 
by the Prophet himself This description is directly and re- 
peatedly applied in the New Testament to the Jews contempo- 
rary with our Saviour. It does not follow from this, that it is 
a specific and exclusive prophecy respecting them ; but it does 
follow that it must be so interpreted as to include them, which 
can only be effected by regarding this last part of the chapter 
as descriptive of the Jews, not at one time merely, but through- 
out the period of the old dispensation, an assumption fully con- 
firmed by history. The judgment threatened will then be the 
loss of their peculiar privileges and an exchange of state with 
others who had been less favoured, involving an extension of 
the church beyond its ancient bounds, the destruction of the old 
abuses, and the final restoration of the Jews themselves. If 
this be the meaning of the second part, it seems to determine 
that of the first as a figurative expression of the truth, that the 


church should suffer bat not perish, the imagery used for this 
purpose being borrowed from the actual sieges of Jerusalem. 
Thus understood, the chapter is prophetic of two great events, 
the seeming destruction of the ancient church, and its repro- 
duction in a new and far more glorious form, so as not only to 
include the gentiles in its bounds, but also the converted rem- 
nant of God's ancient people. 

1. Woe to Arid (or alas for Ariel), Ariel, the city David en- 
camped ! Add year to year ; let the feasts revolve. All interpre- 
ters agree that Arid is here a name for Zion or Jerusalem, 
although they greatly differ in the explanation of the name 
itself There are two explanations between which interpreters 
are chiefly divided. One of these makes it mean lion of God, 
i. e. a lionlike champion or hero (2 Sam. 23 : 20. Isai. 33 : 7), 
here applied to Jerusalem as a city of heroes which should never 
be subdued. The other hypothesis explains it, from an Arabic 
analogy, to mean the hearth or fire-place of God, in which sense 
it seems to be applied to the altar by Ezekiel (43 : 15, 16), and 
the extension of the name to the whole city is the more natural 
because Isaiah himself says of Jehovah, that his fire is in Zion 
and his furnace in Jerusalem (ch. 31 : 9). The city David en- 
camped is an elliptical expression not unlike the Hebrew one, 
in which the relative must be supplied. Here again there 
seems to be a twofold allusion to David's siege and conquest of 
Zion (2 Sam. 5:7), and to his afterwards encamping i. e dwell- 
ing there (2 Sam. 5 : 9). Most interpreters explain the words 
add year to year, as simply meaning, let the years roll on with 
the accustomed routine of ceremonial services. The last phrase 
let the feasts revolve, corresponds exactly to the one preceding, 
add year to year. 

2. And I will distress Ariel, and there shall be sadness and 
Borrow, and it shall be to me as Ariel Let the years revolve and 


the usual routine continue, but the time is coming when it shall 
be interrupted. The words translated sadness and sorrow are 
collateral derivatives from one root. The last clause may be 
either a continuation of the threatening or an added promise. 
If the former, the meaniug probably is, it shall be indeed a fur- 
nace or an altar, i. e. when the fire of affliction or divine wrath 
shall be kindled on it. If the latter, it shall still be a city of 
heroes, and as such withstand its enemies. Or, combining both 
the senses of the enigmatical name, it shall burn like a furnace, 
but resist like a lion. 

3. And I will camp against thee round about (literally, as a 
ring or circle), and push against thee (or press upon thee with) a 
post (or body of troops), and raise against thee ramparts (or en- 
trenchments). The siege of Ariel is now represented as the 
work of God himself, which, although it admits of explanation 
as referring merely to his providential oversight and control, 
seems here to be significant, as intimating that the siege de- 
scribed is not a literal one. 

4. And thou shall be brought down, out of the ground shall thou 
tpeak, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice 
shall be like (the voice of)a spirit, out of the ground, and out of the 
dust shall thy speech mutter. The simple meaning naturally sug- 
gested by the words is, that the person here addressed, to wit, 
the city or its population, should -be weakened and humbled. 
The last verb properly denotes any feeble inarticulate sound, 
and is applied in eh. 10 : 14 and 38 : 14 to the chirping or twit- 
tering of birds. 

5. Then shall be like fine dust the multitude of thy strangers, and 
like passing chaff the multitude of the terrible ones, and it shall be 
in a moment suddenly. It is now very commonly agreed, thai 
this verse describes the sudden and complete dispersion of their 



enemies. The absence of but at the beginning, or some other 
indication that the writer is about to pass from threats to prom- 
ises, although it renders the connection more obscure, increases 
the effect of the description. The terms of this verse readily 
suggest the sudden fall of the Assyrian host, nor is there any 
reason for denying that the Prophet had a view to it in choos- 
ing his expressions. But that this is an explicit and specific 
prophecy of that event is much less probable, as well because 
the terms are in themselves appropriate to any case of sudden 
and complete dispersion, as because the context contains lan- 
guage wholly inappropriate to the slaughter of Sennacherib's 
army. These considerations, although negative and inconclu- 
sive in themselves, tend strongly to confirm the supposition 
founded on the last part of the chapter, that the first contains 
a strong metaphorical description of the evils which Jerusalem 
should suffer at the hands of enemies, but without exclusive 
reference to any one siege, or to sieges in the literal sense at 
all. That the evils which the last part of the chapter brings 
to light are of a spiritual nature, and not confined to any single 
period, is a fact which seems to warrant the conclusion, or at 
least to raise a strong presumption, that the Ariel of this pas- 
sage is Zion or Jerusalem, considered only as the local habita- 
tion of the church. 

6. From with (i. e. from the presence of) Jehovah of hosts shall 
it be visited with thunder and .earthquake and great noise, tempest 
and storm and flame of devouring fire. Some refer this to the 
singular phenomena which are said to have preceded and ac- 
companied the taking of Jerusalem by Titus. This applica- 
tion may be admitted, in the same sense and on the same 
ground with the allusion to Sennacherib's host in the fore- 
going verse. But that the prophecy is not a prophecy of either 
catastrophe, may be inferred from the fact that neither is de- 
scribed in the context. Indeed, the direct application of this 


Terse to the fall of Jerusalem is wholly inadmissible, since the 
preceding verse describes the assailants as dispersed, and this 
appears to continue the description. 

7. Then shall he as a dream, a vision of the night, the multitude 
of all the nations fighting againsVAriel, even all that fight against 
her and her munition and distress her. The modern writers 
generally understand both this verse and the next as meaning 
that the enemy himself should be wholly disappointed and his 
vain hopes vanish as a dream. But the true sense appears to 
be that these two verses are distinct though similar, the enemy 
being first compared to a dream and then to a dreamer. He 
who threatens your destruction shall vanish like a dream. He 
who threatens your destruction shall awake as from a dream, 
and find himself cheated of his expectations. These seem to 
be the two comparisons intended, both of which are perfectly 
appropriate, and one of which might readily suggest the other. 

8. And it shall be as when the hungry dreams, and lo he eats, 
and he awakes, and his soul is empty ; and as when the thirsty 
dreams, and lo he drinks, and he awakes, and lo he is faint and 
his soul craving : so shall be the multitude of all the nations that 
fight against Mount Zion. In this verse soul is twice used in 
the not uncommon sense of appetite, first described as empty 
(L e. unsatisfied) and then as craving. A striking and affecting 
parallel from real life has been quoted from Mungo Park's jour- 
nals. " No sooner had I shut my eyes than fancy would con- 
vey me to the streams and rivers of my native land. There, 
as I wandered along the verdant bank, I surveyed the clear 
stream with transport, and hastened to swallow the delightful 
draught ; but alas ! disappointment awakened me, and I found 
myself a lonely captive, perishing of thirst amid the wilds of 


9. Waver and wonder I be merry and blind ! They are drunk, 
but not with wine; thiy reel, but not with strong drink. Here 
begins the description of the moral and spiritual evils' whiok 
were the occasion of the judgments previously threatened. In 
the first clause, the Prophet describes the condition of the peo- 
ple by exhorting them ironically to continue in it ; in the 
second, he seems to turn away from them and address the 
spectators. The terms of the first clause are very obscure; 
The second imperative may be understood as indicating the 
effect or consequence of that before it : refuse to believe, but 
you will only be the more astonished ; continue to enjoy your- 
selves, but it will only be the means of blinding you. The 
express description of the drunkenness as spiritual shows that 
where no such explanation is added (as in ch 28 : 1, 7), the 
terms are to be literally understood. By spiritual drunken- 
ness we are probably to understand unsteadiness of conduct 
and a want of spiritual discernment. 

10. For Jehovah hath poured out upon you a spirit of deep 
sleep and hath shut your eyes ; the prophets and your heads (or 
even your heads) the seers hath he covered. On the agency here 
ascribed to God, see the exposition of ch. 6:9, 10. The two 
ideas expressed in the parallel clauses are those of bandaging 
the eyes and covering the head so as to obstruct the sight. In 
the latter case the Prophet makes a special application of the 
figure to the chiefs or religious leaders of the people, as if he 
had said, he hath shut your eyes, and covered your heads, viz. 
the prophets. 

1 1. And the vision of all (or of the whole) is (or has become) to 
you like the words of the sealed writing, which they give to one 
knowing writing, saying Pray read this, and he says, I cannot, 
for it is scaled. The vision of all may either mean of all the 

prophets, or collectively all vision, or the vision of all things, 


i. e. prophecy on all subjects. The English word book does 
not exactly represent the Hebrew word, which originally sig- 
nifies writing in general or anything written, and is here used 
as we might use document or the still more general term paper. 
In the phrase one knowing writing, the last word seems to 
mean writing in general, and the whole phrase one who under- 
stands it or knows how to read it. The application of the 
simile becomes clear in the next verse. 

12. And the writing is given to one who knows not writing, 
saying, Pray read this, and he says, I know not writing. The 
common version, I am not learned, is too comprehensive and 
indefinite. A man might read a letter without being learned, 
at least in the modern sense, although the word was once the 
opposite of illiterate or wholly ignorant. In this case it is 
necessary to the full effect of the comparison, that the phrase 
Bhould be distinctly understood to mean, I cannot read. The 
comparison itself represents the people as alike incapable of 
understanding the divine communications, or rather as profess- 
ing incapacity to understand them, some upon the general 
ground of ignorance, and others on the ground of their ob- 

13. And the Lord said, Because this people draws near with its 
mouth, and with its lips they honour me, and its heart it puts (or 
keeps) far from me, and their fearing me is (or has become) a pre- 
cept of men, (a thing) taught. The conclusion follows in the next 
verse. The singular and plural pronouns are promiscuously 
used in this verse with respect to Israel considered as a nation 
and an individual At the end of the verse the English Ver- 
sion has, taught by the precept of men ; but a simpler construction 
is the one given above. The last clause might be simply un- 
derstood to mean, that they served God merely in obedience 
to human authority. It would then of course imply no censure 


on the persons thus commanding, but only on the motives of 
those by whom they were obeyed. In our Saviour's applica- 
tion of the passage to the hypocrites of his day (Matthew 
15 : 7-9), he explains their teachings as human corruptions of 
the truth, by which the commandment of God was made of 
none effect. The expressions of the Prophet may have been 
so chosen as to be applicable either to the reign of Hezekiah, 
when the worship of Jehovah was enforced by human author- 
ity, or to the time of Christ, when the rulers of the people had 
corrupted and made void the law by their additions. The ap- 
parent reference, in this description, to the Jews not at one 
time only but throughout their history, tends to confirm the 
supposition, that the subject of the prophecy is not any one 
specific juncture, and that the first part of the chapter is not a 
prediction of any one siege of Jerusalem exclusively. 

14. Therefore, behold, I will add (or continue) to treat this peo- 
ple strangely, very strangely, and with strangeness, and the wis- 
dom of its wise ones shall be lost (or perish), and the prudence of 
its prudent ones shall hide itself, i. e. for shame, or simply disap- 
pear. This is the conclusion of the sentence which begins with 
the preceding verse. Because th°y draw near etc. therefore I 
will add etc. The nature of the judgment here denounced 
seems to show that the corruption of the people was closely 
connected with undue reliance upon human wisdom. (Com- 
pare ch. 5 : 21.) 

15. Woe unto those (or alas for those) going deep from Jehovah 
to hide counsel (i. e laying their plans deep in the hope of hid- 
ing them from God), and their works (are) in the dark, and they 
say, Who sees us and who knows us 1 This is a further descrip- 
tion of the people or their leaders, as not only wise in their 
own conceit, but as impiously hoping to deceive God or elude 
his notice. The absurdity of such an expectation is exposed 


in the following verse. In the last clause of this, the interrog- 
ative form implies negation. 

16. Your perversion ! Is the potter to be reckoned as the clay 
that the thing made should say of its maker, he made me not, and 
the thing formed say of its former, he does not understand t The 
attempt to hide anything from God implies that he has not a 
perfect knowledge of bis creatures, which is practically to re- 
duce the maker and the thing made to a level. With this in- 
version or perversion of the natural relation between God and 
man, the Prophet charges them in one word. Most of the 
recent writers are agreed in construing the first word as an 
exclamation, oh your perverseness ! i. e. how perverse you are ! 
in which sense it had long before been paraphrased by Luther. 
Both the derivation of the word, however, and the context 
here seem to demand the sense perversion rather than perverse? 
ness. The verse seems intended not so much to rebuke their 
perverse disposition, as to show that by their conduct they 
subverted the distinction between creature and creator, or 
placed them in a preposterous relation to each other. Thus 
understood, the word may be thus paraphrased : (this is) your 
(own) perversion (of the truth, or of the true relation between 
God and man). 

17. Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall turn (or 
be turned) to the fruitful field, and the fruitful field be reckoned to 
the forest (i. e. reckoned as belonging to it, or as being itself a 
forest) ? The negative interrogation is one of the strongest 
forms of affirmation. The metaphors of this verse evidently 
signify a greax revolution, a mutual change of condition , the 
first becoming last and the last first. If, as we have seen 
sufficient reason to believe, the previous context has respect to 
the Jews under the old dispensation, nothing can be more ap- 
propriate or natural than to understand the verse before as 


foretelling the excision of the unbelieving Jews and the ad- 
mission of the Gentiles to the church. 

18. And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book 
(or writing), and out of obscurity and darkness shall the eyes of the 
blind see. This is a further description of the change just pre- 
dicted under other figures. As the forest was to be transform- 
ed into a fruitful field, so the blind should be made to see and 
the deaf to hear. There is an obvious allusion to the figure of 
the sealed book or writing in vs. 13, 14. The Jews could only 
plead obscurity or ignorance as an excuse for not understanding 
the revealed will of God. The Gentiles, in their utter destitu- 
tion, might be rather likened to the blind who cannot read, how- 
ever clear the light or plain the writing, and the deaf who.cannot 
even hear what is read by others. But the time was coming 
when they, who would not break the seal or learn the letters of 
the written word, should be abandoned to their chosen state of 
ignorance, while on the other hand, the blind and deaf, whose 
case before seemed hopeless, should begin to see and hear the 
revelation once entirely inaccessible. The perfect adaptation 
of this figurative language to express the new relation of the 
Jews and Gentiles after the end of the old economy affords a 
new proof that the prophecy relates to that event. 

19. And the humble shall add joy (i. e. shall rejoice more and 
more) in Jehovah, and the poor among men in the Holy One of 
Israel shall rejoice. As the preceding verse describes the happy 
effect of the promised change upon the intellectual views of 
those who should experience it, so this describes its influence in 
the promotion of their happiness. Not only shRild the igno- 
rant be taught of God, but the wretched should be rendered 
happy in the enjoyment of his favour. 

20. For the violent is at an end, and the scoffer ceascth, and all 


the watchers for injustice are cut off. A main cause of the happi- 
ness foretold will be the weakening or destruction of all evil 
influences, here reduced to the three great classes of violent 
wrong-doing, impious contempt of truth and goodness, and ma- 
lignant treachery or fraud, which watches for the opportunity 
of doing evil, with as constant vigilance as ought to be employed 
in watching for occasions of redressing wrong and doing justice. 
This is a change which, to some extent, has always attended the 
diffusion of the true religion. 

21. Making a man a sinner for a word, and for him disputing 
in the gate they laid a snare, and turned aside the righteous through 
deceit. An amplification of the last phrase in the foregoing 
verse. Some understand the first clause to mean, seducing 
people into sin by their words. It is much more common to ex- 
plain the whole phrase to mean unjustly condemning a man in 
his cause, which agrees well with the obvious allusion to foren- 
sic process in the remainder of the verse. The English and 
many other early versions explain the clause to mean accusing 
or condemning men for a mere error of the tongue or lips. The 
general sense is plain, viz. that they embrace all opportunities 
and use all arts to wrong the guiltless. Most of the modern 
writers take the word translated disputing, in the sense of 
arguing, pleading in the gate, i. e. the court, often held in the 
gates of oriental cities. The other explanation supposes the 
gate to be mentioned only as a place of public concourse. By 
the turning aside of the righteous (i. e. of the party who is in 
the right) we are here to understand the depriving him of that 
which is his due. For the meaning and usage of the figure, see 
the commentary on ch. 10:2. The last words have been va- 
riously understood to mean through falsehood (with particular 
reference to false testimony), or by means of a judgment which 
is null and void, or for nothing i. e. without just cause. In 
either case the phrase describes the perversion or abuse of jus» 



tioe by dishonest means, and thus agrees with the expression* 
used in the foregoing clauses. 

22. Therefore thus saith Jehovah to the house of Jacob, he who 
redeemed Abraham, Not now shall Jacob be ashamed, and not now 
shall his face turn pale. The Hebrew phrase not now does not 
imply that it shall be so hereafter, but on the contrary that it 
shall be so no more. The phrase redeemed Abraham may be 
naturally understood, either as signifying deliverance from 
danger and the divine protection generally, or in a higher sense 
as signifying Abraham's conversion and salvation. Shame and 
fear are here combined as strong and painful emotions from, 
which Jacob should be henceforth free. Some understand by 
Jacob here the patriarch himself, poetically represented as 
beholding and sympathizing with the fortunes of his own de- 
scendants. Most interpreters suppose the name to be employed 
like Israel in direct application to the race itself. 

23. For in his seeing (i. e. when he sees) his children, the work 
of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and 
sanctify (or yes they shall sanctify) the Holy One. of Jacob, and the 
God of Israel they shall fear. The verse thus translated accord- 
ing to its simplest and most obvious sense has much perplexed 
interpreters. The difficulties chiefly urged are, first, that Jacob 
should be said to see his children in the midst of himself; sec- 
ondly, that his thus seeing them should be the occasion of their 
glorifying God. What follows is suggested as a possible solution 
of this exegetical enigma. We have seen reason, wholly inde- 
pendent of this verse, to believe that the immediately preceding 
context has respect to the excision of the Jews and the vocation 
of the Gentiles. Now the latter are described in the New Tes- 
tament as Abraham's (and consequently Jacob's) spiritual pro- 
geny, as such distinguished from his natural descendants. May 
not these adventitious or adopted children of the patriarch, 


constituted such by the electing grace of God, be here intended 
by the phrase, the work of my hands ? If so, the whole may thus 
be paraphrased : when he (the patriarch, supposed to be again 
alive and gazing at his offspring) shall behold his children (not 
by nature but) created such by me, in the midst of him (i. e. in 
the midst, or in the place, of his natural descendants), they (i. e. 
he and his descendants jointly) shall unite in glorifying God as 
the author of this great revolution. This explanation of the 
verse is the more natural, because such would no doubt be the 
actual feelings of the patriarch and his descendants, if he should 
really be raised from the dead, and permitted to behold what 
God has wrought, with respect both to his natural and spiritual 
offspring. To the passage thus explained a striking parallel is 
found in ch. 49 : 18-21, where the same situation and emotions 
here ascribed to the patriarch are predicated of the church per- 
sonified, to whom the Prophet says, ' Lift up thine eyes round 
about and behold, all these gather themselves together, they 
come to thee. The children which thou shalt have after thou 
hast lost the others shall say etc. Then shalt thou say in thine 
heart, who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my chil- 
dren, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? 
And who hath brought up these ? Behold, I alone was left ; 
these, where were they V For the use of the word sanctify in 
reference to God as its object, see the note on ch. 8:13. The 
Holy One of Jacob is of course identical in meaning with the 
Holy One of Israel, which last phrase is explained in the note 
on ch. 1 : 4. The emphatic mention of the Holy One of Jacob 
and the God of Israel, as the object to be sanctified, implies a 
relation still existing between all believers and their spiritual 
ancestry, as well as a relation of identity between the Jewish 
and the Christian Church. 

24. Then shall the erring in spirit know wisdom, and the mur- 
murers (or rebels) shall receive instruction. These words would 


be perfectly appropriate as a general description of the reclaim- 
ing and converting influence to be exerted upon men in general. 
But nnder this more vague and comprehensive sense, the eon* 
text, and especially the verse immediately preceding, seems to 
show that there is one more specific and significant included. 
If the foregoing verse predicts the reception of the Gentiles into 
the family of Israel, and if this reception, as we learn from the 
New Testament, was connected with the disinheriting of most 
of the natural descendants, who are nevertheless to be restored 
hereafter, then the promise of this final restoration is a stroke 
still wanting to complete the fine prophetic picture now before 
us. That finishing stroke is given in this closing verse, which 
adds to the promise that the Gentiles shall become the heirs of 
Israel, another that the heirs of Israel according to the flesh 
shall themselves be restored to their long lest heritage, not by 
excluding their successors in their turn, but by peaceful and 
brotherly participation with them. This application of the last 
part of the chapter to the calling of the Gentiles and the resto- 
ration of the Jews has been founded, as the reader will observe, 
not on on any forced accommodation of particular expressions, 
but on various detached points, all combining to confirm this 
exegetical hypothesis, as the only one which furnishes a key to 
the consistent exposition of the chapter, as a concatenated pro- 
phecy without abrupt transitions or a mixture of incongruous 



This chapter contains an exposure of the sin and folly of 
ancient Israel in seeking foreign aid against their enemies, 
to the neglect of God, their rightful sovereign and pro- 
tector. The costume of the prophecy is borrowed from the 
circumstances and events of Isaiah's own times. Thus Egypt 
is mentioned in the first part of the chapter as the chosen ally 
of the people, and Assyria in the last part as the dreaded enemy. 
There is no need however of restricting what is said to that 
period exclusively. The presumption, as in all such cases, is 
that the description was designed to be more general, although 
it may contain allusions to particular emergencies. Reliance 
upon human aid, involving a distrust of the divine promises, 
was a crying sin of the ancient church, not at one time only, 
but throughout her history. To denounce such sins, and 
threaten them with condign punishment, was no small part of 
the prophetic office. The chronological hypotheses assumed by 
different writers with respect to this chapter are erroneous only 
because too specific and exclusive. It was clearly intended to 
reprove the sin of seeking foreign aid without divine permis- 
sion ; but there is nothing in the terms of the reproof confining 
it to any single case of the offence. The chapter may be di- 
vided into three parts. In the first, the Prophet shows the sin 
and folly of relying upon Egypt, no doubt for protection against 
Assyria, as these were the two great powers between which 
Israel was continually oscillating, almost constantly at war with 
one and in alliance with the other, vs. 1-7. In the last part, 
he describes the Assyrian power as broken by an immediate 
divine interposition, precluding the necessity of any human aid, 
vs. 27-33. In the larger intervening part, he shows the con- 
nection of this distrust of God and reliance on the creature with 


the general character and spiritual state of the people, as un- 
willing to receive instruction, as dishonest and oppressive, 
making severe judgments necessary as a prelude to the glo- 
rious change which God would eventually bring to pass, vs. 

1. Woe to the disobedient children, with Jehovah, (so disobedient 
as) to form (or execute) a plan and not from me, and to weave a 
web, but not (of) my Spirit, for the sake of adding sin to sin. 
Here, as in ch 1:2, Israel's filial relation to Jehovah is par- 
ticularly mentioned as an aggravation of his ingratitude and 
disobedience. The infinitives express the respect in which, or 
the result with which, they had rebelled against Jehovah. The 
relative construction of the English Version does not materially 
change the sense. The simple meaning seems to be that of 
multiplying or accumulating guilt. 

2. Those walking to go down to Egypt, and my mouth they have 
not consulted (literally asked), to take refuge in the strength of 
Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt. Motion towards 
Egypt is commonly spoken of in Scripture as downward. To 
ask the mouth, or at the mouth, of the Lord is a phrase used else- 
where in the sense of seeking a divine decision or response. 

3. 4. And the strength of Egypt shall be to you for shame and 
the trust in the shadow of Egypt for confusion. For his chiefs are 
in Zoan, and his ambassadors arrive at Hanes. As to the site 
and political importance of Zoan or Tains, see the note on ch 
19: 11. 

5. All are ashamed of a people who cannot profit them, (a people) 
not for help and not for profit, but for shame, and also for disgrace. 
The Hebrew construction is, they are not a profit or a help, for 
(on the contrary) they are a disgrace and a reproach. 


6. The burden of the beasts of the south, in a land of suffering 
and distress, whence (are) the adder and the fiery flying serpent ; 
they are carrying (or about to carry) on the shoulder of young asses 
their wealth, and on the hump of camels their treasures, to a people 
(or for the sake of a people) who cannot profit. The Prophet sees 
the ambassadors of Israel carrying costly presents through the 
waste howling wilderness, for the purpose of securing the 
Egyptian alliance. Some apply the description to the emigra- 
tion of the Jews into Egypt in the days of Jeremiah. This 
may be alluded to, but -cannot be the exclusive subject of the 
passage. The most natural construction of the first clause is 
to take it as an exclamation (oh the burden of the beasts ! what a 
burden to the beasts!) or as an absolute nominative (as to the 
burden of the beasts). The beasts meant are the asses and the 
camels of the following clause, called beasts of the south because 
travelling in that direction. The land meant is the interjacent 
desert described by Moses in similar terms (Deut. 1 : 19. 8 : 15). 
Land of suffering denotes a land of danger and privation, such 
as the great Arabian desert is to travellers. The lions and 
vipers of this verse belong to the poetical description of the 

7. And Egypt (or the Egyptians) — in vain and to no purpose 
shall they help. Therefore I cry concerning this, their strength is 
to sit still. Most of the modern writers understand the last 
clause as contrasting the pretensions of Egypt with its actual 
performances, the opposite ideas being those of arrogance or 
insolence and quiescence or in action. The general meaning 
may be considered as determined by the other clause. 

8. And now go, write it with them on a tablet and inscribe it in 
a book, and let it be for a future day, forever, to eternity. This, 
like the similar precaution in ch. 8 : 1, was intended to verify 
the fact of the prediction after the event. Most interpreters 


suppose two distinct inscriptions to be here required, one on a 
solid tablet for public exhibition, and the other on parchment 
or the like for preservation. But it is more natural to under- 
stand the words as equivalents. 

9. For a people of rebellion (a rebellious people) if it, lying 
(or denying) children, children (who) are not willing to learn the 
law of Jehovah. The English Version makes this verse state 
the substance of the inscription, that this is a rebellious peo- 
ple etc 

10. Who say to the seers, Ye shall not see, and to the viewers, ye 


shall not view for us right things ; speak unto us smooth things, 
view deceits. There is great difficulty in translating this verse 
literally, as the two Hebrew verbs, meaning to see, have no 
equivalents in English, which of themselves suggest the idea 
of prophetic revelation. The common version (see not, prophesy 
not), although it conveys the true sense substantially, leaves out 
of view the near relation of the two verbs to each other in the 
original. In the translation above given, view is introduced 
merely as a synonyme of see, both being here used to express 
supernatural or prophetic vision. With thismse of the verbal 
noun (seer) we are all familiar through the English Bible. 
This is of course not given as the actual language of the people, 
but as the tendency and spirit of their acts. Smooth things or 
words is a common figurative term for flatteries. Luther's ex- 
pressive version is, preach soft to us. 

1 1. Depart from the way, swerve from the path, cause to cease 
from before us the Holy One of Israel. The request is not 
that they would go out of the people's way, so as no lon- 
ger to prevent their going on in sin, but that they would 
get out of their own way, i. e. wander from it or forsake it. 
Cause to cease from before us, i. e. remove from our sight It was 


a common opinion with the older writers, that this clause al* 
lades to Isaiah's frequent repetition of the name Holy One of 
Israel, and contains a request that they might hear it no more. 
But the modern interpreters appear to be agreed that the allu- 
sion is not to the name but the person. 

12. Therefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because of your 
rejecting (or despising) this word, and (because) ye have trusted in 
oppression and perverseness, and have relied thereon. The word 
here mentioned is no doubt the law of v. 9, both being common 
epithets of revelation generally, and of particular divine com- 
munications. (See the note on ch. 2:3.) 

13. Therefore shall this iniquity be to you like a breach falling 
(or ready to fall) swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking may 
come suddenly, at (any) instant. The image is that of a wall 
which is rent oi cracked and bulges out This interpreta- 
tion conveys the idea of a gradual yet sudden catastrophe, 
which is admirably suited to the context. It is also true 
that the idea of a downfall springing from internal causes 
is more appropriate in this connection than that of mere ex- 
ternal violence however overwhelming. 

14. And it (the wall) is broken like the breaking of a potter's 
vessel, broken unsparingly (or without mercy), so that there is not 
found in its fracture (or among its fragments) a sherd to take up 
fire from a hearth, and to skim (or dip up) water from a pool. 
A potter's vessel, literally, vessel of the potters. Sherd is an old 
English word, now seldom used, meaning a broken piece of 
pottery or earthenware, and found more frequently in the 
compound form of potsherd. 

15. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, 
in returning (or conversion) and rest shall ye be saved, in remain- 


ing quiet and in confidence shall be. your strength ; and ye would 
not (or were not willing). This overwhelming judgment would 
be strictly just because they had been fully admonished of the 
way of safety. For the spiritual usage of the verb returning, 
see the note on ch 1 : 27. 

16. And ye said, No, for we will flee upon horses ; therefore, 
shall ye flee ; and upon the swift will we ride ; therefore shall your 
pursuers be swift. The hope here ascribed to the people is not 
simply that of going swiftly, but of escaping from the' dangers 

17. One thousand from before the rebuke (or menace) of one, from 
before the rebuke of five shall ye flee, until ye are left like a mast (or 
pole) on the top of the mountain, and like the signal on the -hill. 
The allusion may be simply to the similar appearance of a lofty 
and solitary tree, or the common idea may be that of a flag-staff, 
which might be found in either situation. 

18. And therefore will Jehovah wait to have mercy upon you, 
and therefore will he rise up (or be exalted) to pity you,, for a God 
of judgment is Jehovah ; blessed are all that wait for him. The 
apparent incongruity of this promise with the threatening 
which immediately precedes, has led to various constructions 
of the first clause. The simplest and most probable conclu- 
sion seems to be that therefore refers, as in many other cases, 
to a remoter antecedent than the words • immediately be- 
fore it. As if the Prophet paused at this point and review- 
ing his denunciations said, Since this is so, since you must 
perish if now dealt with strictly, G-od will allow you space for 
repentance, he will wait to be gracious, he will exalt himself by 
showing mercy. Another difficulty of the same kind has arisen 
from the next clause, where the justice of God seems to be given 
as a reason for showing mercy. That the clause does not relate 


to righteousness or justice in the strict sense, appears plain from 
the added benediction of those who trust Jehovah. One point 
is universally admitted, namely, that somewhere in this verse 
is the transition from the tone of threatening to that of promise. 
The question where it shall be fixed, though interesting, does 
not affect the general connection or the import of the passage 
as a whole. 

19. For the people in Zion shall dwell in Jerusalem ; thou shall 
weep no more ; he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy 
cry ; as he hears it he will answer thee. The position of the first 
verb in this English sentence leaves it doubtful whether it is 
to be construed with what follows or what goes before. Pre- 
cisely the same ambiguity exists in the original, which may 
either mean that the people who are now in Zion shall dwell in 
Jerusalem, or that the people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem. 
This last is the most natural construction. It is adopted in 
the English version, but with a needless variation of the parti- 
cle, in Zion at Jerusalem. In the translation above given the 
Hebrew order is restored. 

20. And the Lord will give you bread of affliction and water of 
oppression, and no more shall thy teachers hide themselves, and thine 
eyes shall see thy teachers. God would afflict them outwardly, 
but would not deprive them of their spiritual privileges ; or, 
there should be a famine of bread, but not of the word of the 
Lord (Amos 8 : 11). The word teachers is probably a designa- 
tion or description of the prophets, with particular reference, 
as some suppose, to their reappearance after a period of severe 
persecution or oppression. (See Ezek. 33 : 22.) 

21. And thine ears shall hear a word from behind thee, saying, 
This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right and when 
ye turn to the left. Word is an idiomatic expression used where 


we should say one speaking. The direction of the voice from 
behind is commonly explained by saying, that the image is bor- 
rowed from the practice of shepherds going behind their flocks, 
or nurses behind children, to observe their motions. A much 
more natural solution is that their guides were to be before 
them, but that when they declined from the right way their backs 
would be turned to them, and consequently the warning voice 
would be heard behind them. The meaning of the call is, this 
is the way which you have left, come back to it. As if he had 
said, this warning will be necessary, /or you will certainly de- 
part at times from the path of safety. This idea may, however, 
be considered as included or implied in the usual translation 

22. And ye shall defile (L e. treat as unclean) the covering of 
thy idols of silver and the case of thy image of gold ; thou sh&lt 
scatter them (or abhor them) as an abominable thing. Away ! shall 
thou say to it. The remarkable alternation of the singular and 
plural, both in the nouns and verbs of this sentence, is retained 
in the translation. The gold and silver, both in Hebrew and 
English, may qualify either the image or the covering. The 
latter is more probable, because the covering would scarcely 
have been mentioned, if it had not been commonly of greater 
value than the body of the idol. The words translated idol and 
image strictly denote graven and molten images respectively, but 
are constantly employed as poetical equivalents. 

23. And he shall give the rain of thy seed (i e. the rain neces- 
sary to its growth), with which thou shalt sow the ground, and 
bread, the prodv.ce of the ground, and it shall be fat and rich ; thy 
cattle shall feed that day in an enlarged pasture. This is a prom- 
ise of increased prosperity after a season of privation, and was 
often verified. 


24. And the oxen and the asses working the ground shall eat 
salted provender which has been winnowed (literally, which one 
winnows) with the sieve and fan. The meaning is that the do- 
mesticated animals shall fare as well as men in other times. 
The word ear, used in the English Version, is an obsolete de- 
rivative of the Latin aro to plough. The word translated 
provender is commonly supposed to denote here a mixture 
of different kinds of grain, and the one joined with it a sea- 
soning of salt or acid Herbs, peculiarly grateful to the stom- 
achs of cattle. 

25. And there shall be, on evert/ high mountain, and on every 
elevated hill, channels, streams of water, in the day of great slaugh- 
ter, in the falling of towers (or when towers fall). The mean- 
ing seems to be, that water shall flow where it never flowed 
before, a common figure in the Prophets for a great change, and 
especially a change for the better. Tbe same sense is no doubt 
to be attached to the previous descriptions of abundance and 
fertility. There are no sufficient data in the text itself for any 
specific and exclusive application. All that can certainly be 
gathered from the words is, that a period of war and carnage 
should be followed by one of abundance and prosperity. 

26. And the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and 
the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in 
the day of Jehovah 1 s binding up the breach of his people, and the 
stroke of his wound he will heal. Instead of the usual words for 
sun and moon, we have here two poetical expressions, one de- 
noting heat and the other white. The Prophet's language is 
designed, not merely to express great joy, but to describe a 
change in the face of nature, as an emblem of some great revo- 
lution in the state of society. (Compare ch. 13 : 10, 13.) It is 
therefore another item added to the catalogue of previous sim- 
iles or comparisons, all denoting the same thing, yet showing 


by their Tory diversity that they denote it only in a tropical or 
figurative manner. 

27. Behold, the name of Jehovah eometh from afar, burning his 
anger and heavy the ascent (of smoke) .- his lips are fall of wrath 
and his tongue as a devouring fire. By the name of Jehovah we 
are not simply to understand Jehovah himself, bat Jehovah as 
revealed in word or act, and therefore glorious. 

28. And his breaih (or spirit), like an overflowing stream, shall 
divide as far as the neck, to sift the nations in the sieve of falsehood, 
and a misleading bridle on the jaws of the people. There are here 
three metaphors employed to express the same general idea, 
those of a flood, a sieve, and a bridle. The whole verse is a 
threatening against Jehovah's enemies. The verb translated 
divide is here explained by the English Version in the sense 
of reaching to the. midst ; but most interpreters adopt the ex- 
planation that the water rising to the neck divides the body 
into two unequal parts. The metaphor itself, as in ch. 8 : 8, 
denotes extreme danger. The phrase sieve of falsehood, is am- 
biguous. It may either mean wickedness in general, i. e. 
the instrument by which the wicked and especially the false 
arc to be punished ; or the sieve of ruin, pointing out the 
issue of the process, as the other version does the object 
upon which it acts. Gill's paraphrase is, " they were to be 
sifted, not with a good and profitable sieve, which retains 
the corn and shakes out the chaff, or so as to have some taken 
out and spared, but with a sieve that lets all through, and so 
be brought to nothing." The last clause may be understood 
in the sense of leading astray or in the wrong direction. 

29. The song (or singing) shall be to you (i. e. your song shall 
be) like the night of the consecration of a feast, and joy of heart 
(i. e. your joy shall be) like (that of) one marching with the pipe 


(or flute) to go into the mountain of Jehovah, to the Rock of Israel. 
The night may be particularly mentioned in the first clause, 
either because all the Mosaic festivals began in the evening, or 
with special allusion to the Passover, which is described in the 
law (Ex. 12 : 42) as a night to be much observed unto the Lord, as 
that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in 
their generations. This verse gives an interesting glimpse of 
ancient usage as to the visitation of the temple at the greater 
yearly festivals. The Rock of Israel is not Mount Zion or 
Moriah, bqfr Jehovah himself, to whose presence they resorted, 
as appears from 2 Samuel 23 : 3. 

30, 31. And Jehovah shall cause to be heard the majesty of his 
voice, and the descent of his arm shall he cause to be seen, with in- 
dignation of anger and a flame of devouring fire, scattering and 
rain and hailstones (literally stone of hail). For at the voice of 
Jehovah shall Assyria (or the Assyrian) be broken, with the rod 
shall he smite. The word translated broken is commonly applied, 
in a figurative sense, to the breaking of the spirit or the courage 
by alarm. Here some translate it beaten down, as in the Eng- 
lish Version. There are two constructions of the last clause, 
one continuing Assyria as the subject of the verb, the other re- 
ferring it to Jehovah. 'The past form given to the verb in the 
English Version (smote) seems entirely unauthorized by usage 
or the context. Even if Assyria be the subject of the clause, 
it is clear that the Prophet speaks of her oppression as being, 
in whole or in part, still future to his own perceptions. The 
express mention of Assyria in this verse, though it does not 
prove it to have been from the beginning the specific subject of 
the prophecy, does show that it was a conspicuous object in 
Isaiah's view, as an example both of danger and deliverance, 
and that at this point he concentrates his prophetic vision on 
this object as a signal illustration of the general truths which 
he has been announcing. 


32. And every passage of the rod of doom, which Jehovah friti 
lay (or cause to rest) upon him, shall be with tabrets and harps, and 
with fights of shaking it is fought therein. There is the same 
diversity of judgment here as in the foregoing verse, with re- 
spect to the question whether the rod mentioned in the first 
clause is the rod which the Assyrian wielded, or the rod which 
smote himself. On the former supposition, the sense would 
seem to be, that in every place through which the rod of the 
oppressor had before passed there should now be heard -the 
sound of joyful music. The reference to Jehovahfe-judgments 
on Assyria is recommended by the reasons above given for ap- 
plying the last words of v. 31 to the same catastrophe. As- 
suming therefore that the clause before us .was likewise intended 
to be so applied, the sense would seem to be that every pas- 
sage of Jehovah's rod (L e. every stroke which passes from it 
to the object) will be hailed, by those whom the Assyrian had 
oppressed, with joy and exultation. The common version, 
grounded staff, is almost unintelligible. 

33. For arranged since yesterday is Tophet ; even it for the king 
is prepared ; he has deepened, he has widened (it) ; its pile fire and 
wood in plenty ; the breath of Jehovah, like a stream of brimstone, 
kindles it. It is universally agreed that the destruction of the 
Assyrian king is here described as a burning of his body at a 
stake or on a funeral-pile. But whether the king mentioned 
be an individual king or an ideal representative of all, and 
whether this be a mere figurative representation of his temporal 
destruction or a premonition of his doom hereafter, are disputed 
questions. Tophet is well known to have been the name of a 
place in the valley of Hinnom where children were sacrificed to 
Moloch, and on that account afterwards defiled by the deposit 
of the filth of the city, to consume which constant fires were 
maintained. Hence, by a natural association, Tophet, as well 
as the more general name, Valley of Hinnom, was applied by 


the later Jews to the place of fdture torment. The question 
whether it is here used to describe the place of future torments 
er as a mere poetical description of the temporal destruction of 
the king of Assyria, is the less important, as the language must 
in either ease be figurative, and can teach us nothing therefore 
as to the real circumstances either of the first or second death. 
Considering however the appalling grandeur of the images pre- 
sented, and our Saviour's use of similar expressions to describe 
the place of everlasting punishment, and also the certainty de- 
ducible from other scriptures, that a wicked king destroyed in 
the act of fighting against God must be punished in the other 
world as well as this, we need not hesitate to understand the 
passage as at least including a denunciation of eternal misery, 
although the general idea which the figures were intended to 
express is that of sudden terrible destruction. 


Reliance upon Egypt is distrust of Ood, who will avenge 
himself by destroying both the helper and the helped, vs. 1-3. 
His determination and ability to save those who confide in his 
protection are expressed by two comparisons, vs. 4-5. The 
people are therefore invited to return to him, from every false 
dependence, human or idolatrous, as they will be constrained 
to do with shame, when they shall witness the destruction of 
their enemies by the resistless fire of his wrath, vs. 6-9. 
This chapter seems to be a direct continuation, or at most a 
repetition, of the threatenings and reproofs which had just been 



1. Woe to those going down to Egypt for help, and on horm 
they lean (or rely), and trust in cavalry, because it is numerous,and 
in horsemen, because they are very strong, and they look not to the 
Holy One of Israel, and Jehovah they seek not. The abundance 
of horses in Egypt is attested, not only in other parts of Scrip- 
tore, but by profane writers. Homer describes Thebes as having 
a hundred gates, out of each of which two hundred warriors 
went forth with chariots and horses. Diodorus speaks of the 
whole country between Thebes and Memphis as filled with royal 
stables. The horses of Solomon are expressly said to have been 
brought out of Egypt. This kind of military force was more 
highly valued, in comparison with infantry, by the ancients tham 
the moderns, and especially by those who, like the Hebrews, 
were almost entirely deprived of it themselves. Hence their 
reliance upon foreign aid is frequently identified with confidence 
in horses, and contrasted with simple trust in God (Psalm 20 : 
7). To seek Jehovah is not merely to consult him, but* to seek 
his aid, resort to him, implying the strongest confidence. For 
the meaning of the phrase look to, see the note on ch. 17:8. 

2. And (yet) he too is wise, and brings evil, and his words he 
removes not, and he rises up against the house of evil-doers, and 
against the help of the workers of iniquity. The word yet is re- 
quired by our idiom in this connection. Too implies a compari- 
son with the Egyptians, upon whose wisdom, as well as strength, 
the Jews may have relied, or with the Jews themselves, who 
no doubt reckoned it a masterpiece of wisdom to secure such 
powerful assistance. The comparison may be explained as 
comprehending both. God was as wise as the Egyptians, and 
ought therefore to have been consulted ; he was as wise as the 
Jews, and could therefore thwart their boasted policy. There 
is in this sentence an obvious irony. The of evil-doers is 
their family or race (ch. 1 : 4), here applied to the unbelieving 
Jews. The Egyptians are called their help, and both are threat- 


ened with destruction. To rise up is to show one's self, address 
one's self to action, and implies a state of previous forbearance 
or neglect. 

3. And Egypt (is) man and not God, and their horses flesh and 
not spirit, and Jehovah shall stretch out his hand, and the helper 
shall stumble and the helped fall, and together all of them shall cease 
(or be destroyed). This verse repeats the contrast between 
human and divine aid, and the threatening that the unbelievers 
and their foreign helpers should be involved in the same de- 
struction. The antithesis of flesh and spirit, like that of God 
and man, is not metaphysical but rhetorical, and is intended 
simply to express extreme dissimilitude or inequality. Reliance 
upon Egypt is again sarcastically represented as reliance upon 
horses, and as such opposed to confidence in God. As Egypt 
here means the Egyptians, it is afterwards referred to as a 
pluraL Stumble and fall are here poetical equivalents. 

4. For thus saith Jehovah unto me, Asa lion growls, and a young 
lion, over his prey, against whom a multitude of shepherds is called 
forth, at their voice he is not frightened, and at their noise he is not 
humbled, so will Jehovah of Hosts come down, to fight upon Mount 
Zion and upon her kill. This is still another form of the 
same contrast. The comparison is a favourite one with Hom- 
er, and occurs in the eighteenth book of the Iliad, in terms 
almost identical. Growl is to be preferred to roar, be- 
cause the Hebrew word more properly denotes a sup- 
pressed or feeble sound. Most interpreters have for Mount 
Zion. Others regard this as a threatening that God will take 
part with the Assyrians against Jerusalem, the promise of de- 
liverance beginning with the next verse. By supposing the 
particle to mean concerning, we can explain its use both in a 
hostile and a favourable sense. The /or at the beginning of this 
verse introduces the ground or reason of the declaration that 


the seeking of foreign aid was both unlawful and unnecessary* 
The hill is by some supposed to be Moriah, as an appendage of 
Mount Zion ; but it may just as well be simply parallel to 
mountain, the mountain of Zion and the hill thereof 

5. As birds flying (oyer or around their nests), so trill Jehovah 
cover over (or protect) Jerusalem, cover and rescue, pass over and 
save. The verb here is the one used to denote the passing over 
of the houses in Egypt by the destroying angel to which there 
may be an allusion here. 

6. Since you need no protection but Jehovah's, therefore, 
return unto him from whom (or with respect to whom) the children 
of Israel have deeply revolted (literally, have deepened revolt). The 
last words may also be read, from whom they (i. e. men indefi- 
nitely) have deeply revolted, oh ye children of Israel. Deep may 
be here used to convey the specific idea of debasement, or the 
more general one of distance, or still more generally, as a mere 
intensive, like our common phrases deeply grieved or deeply 
injured. The analogy of ch. 29 : 15, however, would suggest 
the idea of deep contrivance or design, which is equally appro- 

7. This acknowledgment you will be constrained to make 
sooner or later. For in that day (of miraculous deliverance) 
they shall reject (cast away with contempt), a man (i. e. each) his 
idols of silver and his idols of gold, which your sinful hands have 
made for you, or, which your own hands have made for you as sin, 
i. e. as an occasion and a means of sin. In like manner the 
golden calves are called the sin of Israel (Deut. 9 : 21. Am. 8: 
14). For the true construction of his silver and his gold, see 
the note on ch. 2 : 20. Trust in idols and reliance upon human 
helpers are here, and often elsewhere, put together, as identical 


in principle, and closely connected in the experience of ancient 
Israel. (See the notes on ch. 2 . 8, 22.) 

8. This future abandonment of all false confidences is de- 
scribed as springing from the demonstration of Jehovah's wil- 
lingness and power to save. And Assyria shall fall by no man's 
sword, and no mortal's sioord shall devour kirn, and (yet) he shall 
flee from before the sword, and his young men (or chosen war- 
riors) shall become tributary (literally, tribute). No man's sword, 
but that of God. The objection that the prophecy, as thus 
explained, was not fulfilled, proceeds upon the false assump- 
tion that it refers exclusively to the overthrow of Sennaoherib's 
host, whereas it describes the decline and fall of the Assyrian 
power after that catastrophe. 

9. And his rock (i. e. his strength) from fear shall pass away, 
and his chiefs shall be afraid of a standard (or signal, as denoting 
the presence of the enemy), saith Jehovah, to whom therj is afire 
in Zion and a furnace in Jerusalem. The true explanation of 
the last clause seems to be that which supposes an allusion both 
to the sacred fire on the altar and to the consuming fire of God's 
presence, whose altar flames in Zion and whose wrath shall 
thence flame to destroy his enemies. Compare the explanation 
of the mystical name Ariel in the note on ch. 29 : 1. 



This chapter consists of two distinguishable parts. The first 
continues the promise of the foregoing context, vs. 1-8. The 
second predicts intervening judgments both to Israel and his 
enemies, vs. 9-20. 

The first blessing promised in the former part is that of mer- 
ciful and righteous government, vs. 1, 2. The next is that of 
spiritual illumination, vs. 3, 4. As the consequence of this, 
moral distinctions shall no longer be confounded, men shall be 
estimated at their real value ; a general prediction, which is 
here applied to two specific cases, vs. 5—8. 

The threatenings of the second part are specially addressed 
to the women of Judah, v. 9. They include the desolation of 
the country and the downfall of Jerusalem, vs. 10-14. The 
evils are to last until a total change is wrought by an effusion 
of the Holy Spirit, vs. 15-18. But fearful changes are to in- 
tervene, for which believers must prepare themselves by dili- 
gence in present duty, vs. 19, 20. 

1. Behold, for righteousness shall reign a king, and rulers for 
justice shall rule. The usual translation is injustice and in right- 
eousness, as descriptive epithets of the reign foretold. But the 
preposition here used may have been intended to suggest, that 
he would reign not only justly, but for the very purpose of doiDg 
justice. It is a question among interpreters whether the king 
here predicted is Hezekiah or the Messiah. The truth appears 
to be that the promise is a general one, as if he had said, the 
day is coming when power shall be exercised and government 
administered, not as at present (in the reign of Ahaz), but with 
a view to the faithful execution of the laws. Of such an im- 


provement Hezekiah's reign was at least a beginning and a 


2. And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the. wind and a 
covert from the rain (or storm), as channels of water in a dry place 
(or in drought), as the shadow of a heavy rock in a weary land. 
The meaning is, that there shall be a man upon the throne, or 
at the head of the government, who, instead of oppressing, will 
protect the helpless This may either be indefinitely under- 
stood, or applied, in an individual and emphatic sense, to the 
Messiah. The figures for protection and relief are the same 
used above in ch. 4:6 and 25 : 4. The phrases heavy rock and 
weary land are idiomatic, but require no explanation. 

3. And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of 
them that hear shall hearken. Some understand here seers or 
prophets, and their hearers, ; but most interpreters apply both 
words to the people generally, as those who had eyes but saw 
not, and had ears but heard not. Compare the threatening in 
ob. 6:9, and the promise in ch. 29 : 18. 

4. And the heart (or mind) of the rash (heedless or reckless) 
shall understand to know (or understand knowledge), and the tongue 
of stammerers shall hasten to speak clear things (i. e. shall speak 
readily and plainly). The bodily defects here mentioned de- 
note others of an intellectual and spiritual nature, neglect and 
ignorance of spiritual matters. The minds of men shall begin 
to be directed to religious truth, and delivered from ignorance 
and error in relation to it. 

5. When men's eyes are thus opened, they will no longer 
confound the essential distinctions of moral character, because 
they will no longer be deceived by mere appearances. Things 
will then be called by their right names. The fool (in the- 


emphatic Scriptural sense, the wicked man) will no longer be 
called noble (men will no longer attach ideas of dignity and 
greatness to the name or person of presumptuous sinners), and 
the churl (or niggard) will no more be spoken of (or to) as liberal. 
The last clause, like the other, contains a specific illustration 
of the general truth that men shall be estimated at their real 

6. The Prophet now defines his own expressions, or describes 
the characters which they denote. The fool (is one who) will 
speak folly (in the strongest and worst sense), and Ids heart will 
do iniquity, to do wickedness and to speak error unto (or against) 
Jehovah (while at the same time he is merciless and cruel 
towards his fellow-men), to starve (or leave empty) the soul of the 
hungry, and the drink of the thirsty he will suffer to fail. The 
futures in this verse express the idea of habitual action ; he 
does and will do so. The infinitives convey the same idea in 
a different form, by making prominent the design and effect of 
their unlawful course. The common version, work and practise 
needlessly departs from the form of the original, in which the 
same verb i& repeated. 

7. Such is the fool : as for the churl, although his making 
money be not sinful in itself, his arms or instruments , the means 
which he employs, are evil. He that hastens to be rich can 
scarcely avoid the practice of dishonest arts and of unkind- 
ness to the poor. He deviseth plots to destroy the oppressed (or 
afflicted) with words of falsehood, and (i. e. even) in the poor 
(man's) speaking right (i. e. even when the poor man's olaim is 
just, or in a more general sense, when the poor man pleads his 

8. As the wicked man's true character is betrayed by his 
habitual acts, so the noble or generous man (and according to 


the Scriptures none is such but the truly good man) reveals 
his dispositions by his conduct He devises noble (or generous) 
things, and in noble (or generous things) he perseveres (literally, 
on them he stands). 

9. Here, as in many other cases, the Prophet reverts to the 
prospect of approaching danger, which was to arouse the care- 
less Jews from their security. As in ch. 3 : 16, he addresses 
himself to the women of Jerusalem, because to them an inva- 
sion would be peculiarly disastrous, and also perhaps because 
their luxurious habits contributed, more or less directly, to 
existing evils. Careless women, arise, hear my voice ; confiding 
daughters, give ear unto my speech. Women and daughters are 
equivalent expressions. Careless and confiding (or secure) 
i. e. indifferent because not apprehensive of the coming danger. 

10. Having called their attention in v. 9, he now proceeds 
with the prediction which concerned them. In a year and 
more (literally, days above a year), ye shall tremble, ye confiding 
ones, for the vintage fails, the gathering shall not come. The 
English Version makes the time denoted to be that of the 
duration of the threatened evil. 

11. He now speaks as if the event had already taken place, 
and calls upon them to express their sorrow and alarm by the 
usual signs of mourning. Tremble ye careless (women), quake 
ye confiding (ones), strip you and make you bare, and gird (sack- 
cloth) on your loins. 

12. Mourning for the breasts (or beating on the breasts as a 
sign of mourning), for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. 
The same act is described in Nah. 2 : 8, but by a different 


16* • 


1 3. Upon the land of my people thorn (and) thistle shall come up, 
for (they shall even come up) upon all (thy) houses of pleasure, 
oh joyous city ! or, upon all houses of pleasure (in) the joyous city. 

14. For the palace is forsaken, the crowd of the city (or the 
crowded city) left, hill and watch-tower (ovre) for caves (or dens) 
forever, a joy (or favourite resort) of wild asses, a pasture of 
flocks. The use of the word palace, and that in the singular 
number, clearly shows that the destruction of Jerusalem itself 
is here predicted. The Hebrew word in this verse originally 
meaning a hill is applied as a proper name (Ophel) to the 
southern extremity of Mount Moriah, overhanging the spot 
where the valleys of Jehoshaphat and Hinnom meet. " The 
top of the ridge is flat, descending rapidly towards the south, 
sometimes by offsets of rock ; the ground is tilled and planted 
with olive and other fruit-trees." (Robinson's Palestine, 
I. p. 394.) 

15. The desolation having been described in v. 14 as of in- 
definite duration, this verse states more explicitly how long it 
is to last. Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, 
and the vnlderness becomes a fruitful field and the fruitful field is 
reckoned to the forest. The general meaning evidently is, until by 
a special divine influence a total revolution shall take place in 
the character, and as a necessary consequence in the condition, 
of the people. The attempt to restrict it to the return from exile, 
or the day of Pentecost, or some great effusion of the Spirit on the 
Jews still future, perverts the passage by making that its whole 
meaning which at most is but a part. For the meaning of the 
figures, see the exposition of ch. 29 : 17. In this connection, 
they would seem to denote nothing more than total change, 
whereas in the other ease the idea of an interchange appears 
to be made prominent. 


16. And justice shall abide in the wilderness, and righteousnen 
in the fruitful field shall dwell. This may either mean, thai 
what is now a wilderness, and what is now a fruitful field, shall 
alike be the abode of righteousness i. e. of righteous men ; or 
that both in the cultivation of the desert, and in the desola- 
tion of the field, the righteousness of God shall be displayed. 
In favour of the former is the use of the word dwell, which 
implies a permanent condition, rather than a transient or oc- 
casional manifestation. It also agrees better with the relation 
of this verse to that before it, as a part of the same sentence. 
If this be the meaning of the sixteenth verse, it seems to fol- 
low clearly, that the whole of the last clause of the fifteenth 
is a promise, since the same inhabitation of righteousness ii 
here foretold in reference to the forest and the fruitful field. 
It is possible indeed that these may be put for the whole land, 
as being the two parts into which he had just before divided it 

17. As the foregoing verse describes the effect of the effusion 
of the Spirit to be universal righteousness, so this describes 
the natural and necessary consequence of righteousness itsel£ 
And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of right' 
eousness rest and assurance (or security) forever. 

18. And my people shall abide in a home of peace, in sure dwel- 
lings^ and in quiet resting-places. There is something tran- 
quillizing in the very sound of this delightful promise, which 
as usual is limited to God's own people, implying either that 
all should have become such, or that those who had not should 
be still perturbed and restless. 

19. And it shall hail in the downfall of the forest (i. e. so as to 
overthrow it), and the city shall be low in a low place (or hum* 
ble with humiliation) i. e. utterly brought down. If this be 
read as a direct continuation of the promise in v. 18, it must 


be explained as a description of the downfall of some hostile 
power, and accordingly it has been referred by most inter- 
preters to Nineveh. Others, thinking it more natural to as- 
sume one subject here and in v. 13, regard this as another in- 
stance of prophetic recurrence from remoter promises to nearer 
Jbreats ; as if he had said, before these things can come to 
pass, the city must be brought low. This construction is en- 
tirely in keeping with the Prophet's manner, as exemplified 
Already in this very chapter. (See the note on v. 9 above.) 
However natural and probable certain applications of the pas- 
sage may appear, the only sense which can with certainty be 
put. upon it, is that some existing power must be humbled, 
cither as a means or as a consequence of the moral revolution 
which had been predicted. 

20. Blessed we ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth the 
foot of the ox and the ass. The allusion in this verse is sup- 
posed by some to be to pasturage, by others to tillage. There 
is still more diversity of judgment with respect to the applica- 
tion of the metaphor. Taking the whole connection into view, 
the meaning of this last verse seems to be, that as great revolu- 
tions are to be expected, arising wholly or in part from moral 
causes, they alone are safe, for the present and the future, who 
with patient assiduity perform what is required and provide, 
by the discharge of actual duty, for contingencies which can 
neither be escaped nor provided for in any other manner. 



This chapter ood tains a general threatening of retribution 
to the enemies of God's people, with particular reference to 
Sennacherib or the Assyrian power. The spoiler shall himself 
be spoiled in due time, through the divine interposition, and 
for the exaltation of Jehovah, vs. 1-6. The state of desola- 
tion and alarm is followed by sudden deliverance, vs. 7-13. 
The same vicissitudes are again described, but in another form, 
vs. 14-19. The peace and security of Zion are set forth 
under the figures of a stationary tent, and of a spot surrounded 
by broad rivers, yet impassable to hostile vessels, vs. 20-22. 
By a beautiful transition, the enemy is described as such a 
vessel, but dismantled and abandoned to its enemies, v. 23. 
The chapter closes with a general promise of deliverance from 
suffering, as a consequence of pardoned sin, v. 24. 

1. Woe to thee spoiling and thou wast not spoiled, deceiving and 
they did nni dtCZTC thSc ! When thou shall cease to spoil thou 
shalt be spoiled, and when thou art done deceiving they shall de- 
ceive thee. The two ideas meant to be expressed are those of 
violence and treachery, as the crying sins of arbitrary powers. 
In themselves the words are applicable to any oppressive and 
deceitful enemy, and may be naturally so explained at the be- 
ginning of the prophecy. This verse describes the enemy as 
acting without provocation, and also as having never yet ex- 
perienced reverses. 

2. Jehovah, favour us ; for thee we wait ; be their arm in the 
mornings, also our salvation in time of trouble. Isaiah here inter- 
poses his own feelings, and offers his own prayer that God 


would be the strength of the nation, and then, with an imme- 
diate change of form, presents the prayer of the people. Arm 
is a common Hebrew metaphor for strength or support. As 
to the mornings is an indefinite expression, understood by some 
to mean early or quickly ', by others every morning, with allu- 
sion to the daily attacks of the enemy, or to the daily morning 

3. At a noise of tumult (or tumultuous noise) the peoples JUe ; 
at thy rising the nations oyre scattered. The rising meant is the 
act of rising from a state of seeming inaction, or as when one 
rouses himself to strike. These words are commonly applied 
to the divine interposition in the case of Sennacherib's attack 
upon Jerusalem. 

4. And your spoil shall be gathered (like) the gathering of the 
devourer ; Wee the running of locusts running on it. By another 
apostrophe, the Prophet here addresses the enemy collectively. 
The word translated devourer is a descriptive name of the 
locust. (See the verb in Deut. 28 : 38.) As locusts gather , 
i. e. greedily and thoroughly, not leaving a tree or a field 
till they have stripped it. The construction of the last 
clause is : like the running of locusts (shall one be) running on 
it (i. e. on the spoil). The verb denotes specifically the act of 
running eagerly or with a view to satisfy the appetite. It is 
sometimes used to denote desire itself. 

5. Exalted is Jehovah because dwelling on high (or inhabiting 
a high place) ; lie fills (or has filled) Zion with judgment and 
righteousness. The first word, being a passive participle, seems 
to denote not merely a condition but a change. High place de- 
notes a lofty and commanding position. 

6. And he shall be the security of thy times, strength of salvor 
turns, wisdom and knowledge ; the fear of Jehovah, that is his treat- 


ure. The simplest construction is the one which supplies the 
subject from the foregoing verse, he ( i. e. Jehovah, or it i. e. 
his righteousness) shall be etc. The object of address is sup- 
posed by some to he Hezekiah, by others the Messiah, hut is 
most probably the people or the believer as an individual. His 
treasure may refer -to the same, or mean the treasure of Jehovah, 
that which he bestows. 

7. Behold, their valiant ones cry without ; the ambassadors of 
peace weep bitterly. They fearful cry aloud. Some here, as in 
ch. 29 : 1, give Ariel the sense of altar ', hut the latest investi- 
gations, although still unsatisfactory, tend strongly to confirm 
the version given in the English Bible. The messengers men- 
tioned in tbe other clause are probably the three men sent by 
Hezekiah to Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18 : 18), or perhaps the bearers 
of the tribute, weeping on account of Sennacherib's refusal to 
fulfil his prom be. Some suppose them to be called valiant, be- 
cause tbey ventured into the enemy's camp; others because 
they were probably military chiefs. Their weeping is agreed 
by all interpreters to be in strict accordance with the ancient 
usage, as described for example by Homer. 

8. The highways are wasted, the wayfarer ceaseth ; he breaks 
the covenant, despises cities, values no man. These are the words 
of the Prophet himself. The scene presented is that of the ac- 
tual condition of Judea during the Assyrian invasion. (Com- 
pare Judges 5:6.) The verbs of the last clause agree with 
Sennacherib or the Assyrian. The meaning is that he despised 
the defences of the conquered country, as unable to resist him. 
The last words may either mean that he has no regard to any 
man's interest or wishes, or that he does not value human life. 

9. The land moumeth, languisheth; Lebanon is ashamed, ft 
pines away; Sharon is like a wilderness, and Bathanand Camel 


«M* (their leaves). The most fertile end flourishing parts of 
the eountry are described as desolate. That the language is 
figurative, may be inferred from the fact that none of the places 
mentioned were in Judah. 

, 10. Now will I arise, saith Jehovah, now will I be lifted up, 
now will I exalt myself. The emphasis is upon the adverb now, 
which is twice repeated to imply that the time for the divine 
interposition is arrived, and that there shall be no more delay. 

1 1. Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble ; yowr 
breath (as) fire shall devour you. The first clause contains a com- 
mon scriptural figure for failure and frustration. (See ch. 
26 : 18.) Chaff and stubble are named as worthless and per- 
ishable substances. 

12. And nations shell be lime-kilns (or burnings of lime) ; thorns 
cut up, in thjz fire they shall burn. By nations we are to under- 
stand all nations that incur the wrath of God. The same word 
burnings is applied to the aromatic fumigations used at ancient 
burials ( Jer. 34 : 5), to which there may be some allusion here. 
The ideas expressed are those of quickness and intensity. The 
thorns are perhaps described as cut up, to suggest that they are 
dry and therefore more combustible. 

13. Hear, ye far, what I have done, and know, ye near, my 
might. Hyfwr and near we may understand all without excep- 
tion. This is an apostrophe, expressing the magnitude of the 
event predicted in the foregoing context. 

14. Afraid in Zion are the sinners. Not at or near Zion, 
meaning the Assyrians, but in Zion i. e. in Jerusalem, referring 
to the impious Jews themselves. Trembling has seized the im- 
pious, a parallel expression to sinners. What follows, might he 


understood as the language of the Prophet himself, giving a rea- 
son for the terror of the wicked. It is more probably, however, 
the language of the wicked Jews themselves. Some refer it to 
the past, and understand the verse to mean that they are now in 
terror who once said thus and thus. But it is more probably 
the present language of the wicked Jews, when actually seized 
with terror. Not those who once said, but who now say etc. 
The interpretation commonly adopted supposes the words to be 
expressive of the feelings excited by the slaughter of Sen- 
nacherib's host. If this be a specimen of God's vindicatory jus- 
tice, what may we expect? Who of us can dwell with (this) 
devouring fire ? Who of us can dwell with (these) perpetual burn* 
ings ? Many make the language still more emphatic, by sup- 
posing that the Prophet argues from the less to the greater. 
If these are God's temporal judgments, what must his eternal 
wrath be ? If the momentary strokes of his hand are thus re- 
sistless, who of us can dwell with the devouring fire, who of us 
can dwell with everlasting burnings ? The last words may then 
be taken in their strongest and most unrestricted sense. 

15. This verse contains a description of the righteous man, 
not unlike that in the fifteenth and twenty-fourth Psalms. 
Walking righteousnesses i e. leading a righteous life. Walk is 
a common Scriptural expression for the course of conduct. The 
plural form of the other word may either be used to mark it as 
an abstract term, or as an emphatic expression for fulness or 
completeness of rectitude. In order to retain the figure of 
walking, the preposition in may be supplied before the noun ; 
but in the Hebrew it seems to be governed directly by the verb, 
or to qualify it as an adverb. And speaking right things, or 
(taking the plural merely as an abstract) rectitude or righteous- 
ness. The idea is not merely that of speaking truth as opposed 
to falsehood, but that of rectitude in speech as distinguished 
from rectitude of action. Rejecting or despising (or combining 


.both ideas, rejecting with contempt) the gain of oppressions or ex- 
tortions. Shaking his hands from taking hold of the bribe, an ex- 
pressive gesture of indignant refusal. Stopping his ears from 
hearing bloods, i. e. plans of murder. Shutting his eyes from look- 
ing at evil L e. from conniving at it, or even beholding it as an 
indifferent spectator. According to the natural connection of 
the passage, this verse would seem to contain the answer to the 
question in v. 14, and is so understood by those who make the 
question mean, who can stand before this terrible Jehovah? 
But on the supposition of an allusion to eternal punishment, 
the answer is absurd, for it implies that the righteous man can 
or will endure it. This may either be regarded as a proof that 
there is no such allusion to eternal punishment in v. 14, or as 
a proof that this is not an answer to the question there recorded. 
Some separate this verse from the preceding context by a larger 
space than usual, making this the beginning, as it were, of a 
new paragraph. To this construction there is the less objec- 
tion, as the sentence is evidently incomplete in this verse, the 
conclusion being added in the next. 

16. He (the character described in v. 15) high places shall 
inhabit. This does not denote exalted station in society, but 
safety from enemies, in being above their reach, as appears from 
the other clause. JFhst?iesses (or strongholds) of rocks (shall be) 
his lofty place, i. e. his refuge or his place of safety, as in ch. 25 : 
12. To the idea of security is added that of sustenance, without 
which the first would be of no avail. His bread is given, includ- 
ing the ideas of allotment or appointment and of actual supply. 
His water sure, or, retaining the strict sense of the participle, 
secured. At the same time there is evident allusion to the moral 
usage of the word as signifying faithful, true, the opposite of 
that whioh fails, deceives, or disappoints the expectation, in 
which sense the same word with a negative is applied by Jere- 
miah (15 : 18) to waters that fail. 


17. A king in his beauty shall thine eyes behold. Most writer* 
suppose Hezekiah to be here referred to, either exclusively or 
as a type of Christ. To see the king in his beauty means in his 
royal state, with tacit reference to his previous state of mourn- 
ing and dejection (ch. 37 : 1). They (i. e. thine eyes) shall behold 
a land of distances or distant places. The most natural explana- 
tion of this phrase would be a distant land, in which sense it is 
used by Jeremiah (8 : 19) and a part of it by Zechariah ( 10 : 9), 
and by both in reference to exile or captivity. The verse before 
us, taken by itself, might be understood as a threatening that 
the Jews should see the king of Babylon in his royal state and 
in a distant land. Interpreters seem to be agreed, however, 
that in this connection it can be taken only as a promise. 

18. Thy heart shall meditate terror. This does not mean, it 
shall conceive or experience present terror, but reflect on that 
which is already past. What follows may be understood as the 
triumphant exclamation of the people when they found them- 
selves so suddenly delivered from their enemies. Where is he 
that counted ? where is he that weighed ? where is he that counted 
the towers? The counting and weighing may be either that 
of tribute or of military wages. The towers are the fortifi- 
cations of Jerusalem. By counting them some understand 
surveying them, either with a view to garrisoning or dismant- 
ling ; others the act of reconnoitring them from without, which 
some ascribe particularly to Babshakeh or Sennacherib himself. 
The general meaning of the verse is plain, as an expression of 
surprise and joy, that the oppressor or besieger had now van- 
ished. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. 1 : 20, has a sentence so 
much like this, in the threefold repetition of the question where, 
and in the use of the word scribe, that it cannot be regarded as 
a mere fortuitous coincidence. It is probable, that the struc- 
ture of the one passage suggested the other. The expression 
it is written, in the preceding verse of the epistle, introduces 


a quotation from ok 29 : 14, but does not necessarily extend to 
the next verse, which may therefore be regarded as a mere 
imitation, as to form and diction, of the one before us. 

19. The fierce (or determined) people Hum shalt not see. Thou 
shalt see no more the Assyrians, whose disappearance was im- 
plied in the questions of the foregoing verse. The essential 
idea seems to be that of firmness and decision, perhaps with the 
accessory idea of aggressive boldness. A people deep of lip from 
hearing L e. hard for thee to understand. Deep denotes ob- 
scure or unintelligible. The preposition before hearing, though 
not directly negative, is virtually so, as it denotes away from, 
which is really equivalent to so as not to hear or be heard. (See 
the note on ch. 5 : 6.) Barbarous tongue (or of a barbarous 
tongue), without meaning (literally, there is no meaning). The 
verb in its other forms, means to mock or scoff, an idea closely 
connected, in the Hebrew usage, with that of foreign language, 
either because the latter seems ridiculous to those who do not 
understand it, or because unmeaning jargon is often used in 

20. Behold Zion the city of owr festivals, Instead of the pres- 
ence of foreign enemies, see Jerusalem once mor£ the scene of 
stated solemnities. The address is to the people as an indi- 
vidual. Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet home, a tent (that) 
shall not be removed (or taken down). The whole of this de- 
scription is drawn from the usages of nomadic life. Its stakes 
shall not be pulled up forever, and all its cords shall not be broken, 
or in our idiom, none of its cords shall be broken. The peculiar 
beauty of the imagery lies in ascribing permanence to a tent, 
which from its very nature must be moveable. This may either 
imply a previous state of agitation and instability, or that the 
church, though weak in herself, should be strengthened and 
established by the power of God. 


21. But there shall Jehovah be mighty for us (or in our behalf). 
The connection of the verses is that Zion shall never be weak- 
ened or removed, but on the contrary Jehovah etc. A place of 
rivers, streams, broad (on) both hands (or sides), i e. completely 
surrounding her. Most interpreters connect these words di- 
rectly with Jehovah. The most obvious explanation seems to 
be that this clause is an amplification of the adverb there. Je- 
hovah will be mighty for us there. What place is meant ? A 
place of rivers and streams broad on both sides, i. e. spreading 
in every direction. The situation described is one which has 
all the advantages of mighty streams without their dangers. 
There shall not go in it an oared vessel (literally, a ship of oar), 
and a gallant ship shall not pass through it. The parallel ex- 
pressions both refer, no doubt, to ships of war, which in ancient 
times were propelled by oars. 

22. For Jehovah our Judge, Jehovah our Lawgiver, Jehovah 
our King, he unit save us. This is a repetition of the same idea, 
but without the figures of the preceding verse. 

23. Thy ropes are cast loose ; they do not hold upright their 
mast ; they do not spread the sail ; then is shared plunder of booty 
in plenty ; the lame spoil the spoil. There is, at the beginning 
of this verse, a sudden apostrophe to the enemy considered as • 
a ship. This figure would be naturally suggested by those of 
v. 21. It was there said that no vessel should approach the 
holy city. But now the Prophet seems to remember that one 
had done so, the proud ship of Assyria. But what was its fate ? 
He sees it dismantled and abandoned to its enemies. The 
eagerness of the pillage is expressed by making the lame join 
in it. 

24. And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick (or have been 
sick). This may either mean that uone shall be sick, or thai 


those who have been so shall be recovered. The people dwelling 
in it (is) forgiven (its) iniquity. Some suppose this to be an ex- 
planation of the sickness mentioned in the first clause, as a 
spiritual malady. Others understand it as explaining bodily 
disease to be the consequence and punishment of sin. The 
words may be taken in a wider sense than either of these, 
namely, that suffering shall cease with sin which is its cause. 
Thus understood, the words are strictly applicable only to a 
state of things still future, either upon earth or in heaven. 


This. chapter and the next appear to constitute one prophecy, 
the first part of which (ch. 34) is filled with threatenings against 
the enemies of the church, the latter part (ch. 35) with promises 
to the church itself. The threatenings of ch. 34 are directed, 
first, against the nations in general, vs. 1-4, and then against 
Edom in particular, vs. 5-15, with a closing affirmation of the 
truth and certainty of the prediction, vs. 16, 17. The destruc- 
tion of the enemies of Zion and the desolation of their lands 
are represented by the figures of a great sacrifice or slaughter, 
the falling of the heavenly bodies, the conversion of the soil 
into brimstone, and the waters into pitch, and the inhabitation 
of animals peculiar to the desert. This is a general threaten 
ing of destruction to the enemies of Zion, Edom being particu- 
larly mentioned, as an enemy of ancient Israel peculiarly in- 
veterate and malignant, and thence used to represent the whole 
class of such enemies. Thus understood, the prophecy extends 
both to the past and future, and may include many particular 


events, not excepting the destruction of Antichrist, as the 
greatest event of this kind which is foretold in prophecy. 
Compare the note on ch, 11:4. 

1. Come near, ye nations, to hear, and ye peoples, hearken. Let 
the earth hear and its fulness (that which fills it, all that it con- 
tains), the world and all its issues (or productions, all that comes 
forth from it). This may either he explained as an appeal to 
inanimate nature, like the one at the beginning of the book 
(ch. 1 : 2), or as an appeal to men, poetically represented as 
the fruit of the earth, which is the sense given in the ancient 
versions. It announces, as about to be delivered, a prediction 
of great moment and deserving the attention of the whole 

2. This verse assigns the reason for the invocation in the 
one before it. For (there is) anger to Jehovah. The English 
Version has, the indignation of the Lord is, an idea which would 
be otherwise expressed in Hebrew. The construction is the 
same as in ch. 2 : 12. Jehovah has anger (or is angry) against 
all the nations. And wrath (is to Jehovah) against all their host. 
Not their armies in particular, but their whole multitude, all 
that belong to them (Compare the same expression in Gen. 
2 : 1.) — He has doomed them, or devoted them irrevocably to 
destruction. For the peculiar usage of the Hebrew verb, 
see the note on ch. 11 : 15. — He has given (i. e. appointed 
and abandoned) them to the slaughter. The past tense de- 
scribes the divine determination or decree as really and liter- 
ally past. 

3. And their slain shall be cast out. The Hebrew word 
strictly means their wounded, but usage gives it the specific 
sense of* wounded mortally, and for the most part in battle. 
Cast out i. e. unburied. This suggests the several ideas of 


contemptuous neglect, of a multitude too vast to be interred, 
and perhaps of survivors too few to perform the duty. (Com- 
pere eh. 14 : 18-20.) They shall not lie unburied merely for 
a time, but until they rot upon the ground. And (as to) their 
corpses (or carcasses), their stench shall go up. And mountains 
shall be melted with (or by) their blood, as they are sometimes 
washed away by rains or torrents. 

4. And all the host of heaven (or heavenly bodies) shall con- 
sume away. This verb is commonly applied to the pining or 
consumption occasioned by disease. In Ps. 38 : 5 it means to 
run as a sore. The ideas of sickly lights and dying lights are 
not unknown to modern poetry. And the heavens shall be rolled 
up (or together) like a scroll, i. e. like an ancient volume (volumen 
from volvo) or a modern map. As God is elsewhere described as 
having stretched out the heavens like a curtain, their destruc- 
tion or any total change in their appearance would be naturally 
represented as a rolling up of the expanse. And all their host 
(referring to the heavens) shall fade (or fall away) like the fading 
of a leaf from a vine. This beautiful comparison with the decay 
of plants makes it the more probable that the preceding clause 
alludes to that of animal life. And like the fading (leaf) or a 
withered (fig) from a fig4ree. The context clearly shows that 
the terms used are poetical, and that here, as in ch. 13 : 10, 
the idea which they are all intended to convey is that of revo- 
lution, sudden, total, and appalling change. The imagery of 
the passage has been partially adopted in Matt. 24 : 29 and 
Rev. 6 : 13, neither of which however is to be regarded either 
as a repetition or an explanation of the one before us. 

5. All this shall certainly take place, for my sword (the 
speaker being God himself) is steeped (saturated, soaked) in 
heaven. The phrase in heaven probably refers to the divine 
determination and foreknowledge. In the sight of God the 


sword, although not yet actually used, was already dripping 
blood. The sword is mentioned as a natural and common 
though poetical expression for any instrument of vengeance. 
Behold, upon Edom it shall come down. The name Edom is 
here applied to the inveterate enemies of the church at large, 
and not to any one of them exclusively. The fulfilment of 
these threatenings cannot be traced in the history of ancient 
Edom. They ceased to be a people not by extirpation but by 
incorporation with the Jews. The name Idumea, as employed 
by Josephus, includes a large part of Judea. The Herods, the 
last royal family of Judah, were of Idumean origin. And 
upon the people of my curse or doom i e , the people whom I 
have doomed to destruction. (See v. 2.) 

6. A sword (is) to Jehovah (or Jehovah has a sword) ; it is full 
of blood. The genitive construction {the sword of Jehovah), 
although not ungrammatical, is not to be assumed without 
necessity. It is smeared with fat. The allusion is to fat and 
blood as the animal substances offered in sacrifice. With the 
blood of lambs and goats, mentioned as well-known sacrificial 
animals, with the fat of the kidneys (or the kidney-fat) of rams, 
mentioned either as remarkable for fatness or as a parallel ex- 
pression to the foregoing clause. For there is to Jehovah (or 
Jehovah has) a sacrifice in Bozrah and a great slaughter in the 
land of Edom. Bozrah was an ancient city of Edom, perhaps 
the same with the modern Busaireh, a village and castle in 
Arabia Petraea south-east of the Dead Sea. 

7. And unicorns shall come down with them, and bullocks with 
bulls. And their land shall be soaked (or drenched) with blood, 
and their dust with fat shall be fattened. The unicorn has been 
commonly regarded as fabulous in modern times ; but of late 
some traces of it have been found in Thibet and other parts 
of Asia. But even supposing it to be a real animal, we have 



no- reason to believe that it was ever common in the Holy 
Land, as the one here named would seem to have been from the 
frequency with which it is mentioned. The modern writers 
are divided between a certain species of gazelle or antelope 
and the wild buffalo of Palestine and Egypt. The name may 
here be used either as a poetical description of the ox, or to 
suggest that wild as well as tame beasts should be included in 
the threatened slaughter. Dust here denotes dry soil, which is 
said to be enriched by the bodies of the slain. So Yirgil says 
that Roman blood had twice enriched the soil of Macedonia, 
and similar statements have been made with respect to the 
field of Waterloo. To come down in the first clause is by some 
explained as meaning to come down to the slaughter (Jer. 
50 : 27. 51 : 40) ; by others to fall or sink under the fatal stroke 
(Zech. 11:2). 

8. For {there is) a day of vengeance to Jehovah, a year of recom- 
penses for the cause of Zion, i. e. to maintain her cause. This 
verse connects the judgments threatened against Edom with 
the cause of Zion or the church of God. On the construction 
and meaning of the first words of the sentence, compare ch. 

9. And her streams (those of Idumea or the land of Edom) 
slwll be turned to 'pitch, and her dust to brimstone, and her land 
shall become burning pitch. This verse announces nothing new, 
but repeats the same prediction under other figures, borrowed 
from the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, which throughout 
the Bible are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of 
eternal fire ( Jude 7). To the fire and brimstone there men- 
tioned, pitch or bitumen is added, as some suppose, because the 
soil of Idumea, lying adjacent to the Dead Sea, is bituminous 
and abounds in veins or springs of naphtha. The first clause 
expresses in the strongest terms the idea of utter and permanent 


destruction, as complete and terrible as if the streams were turned 
to pitch. 

10. Day and night it shall not be quenched; forever shall its 
smoke go up ; from generation to generation shall it lie waste, for- 
ever and ever, there shall be no one passing through it. The re- 
markable gradation and accumulation of terms denoting perpe- 
tuity can scarcely be expressed in a translation. This is espe- 
cially the case with the last and highest of the series. A strik- 
ing parallel to this verse is found in the statement (Gen. 19 : 28), 
that when Abraham looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, the 
smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. These sub- 
lime and fearful images are copied in the book of Revelation. 
(14: 10, 11) Keith, in his Evidences of Prophecy, has collected 
some remarkable illustrations of this passage from the incidental 
statements of modern travellers with respect to what was once 
the land of Edom. Thus Volney speaks of thirty deserted 
towns within three days' journey ; Seetzen. of a wide tract ut- 
terly without a place of habitation, and of his own route through 
it as one never before attempted ; Burckhardt, of the passage 
as declared by the people of the nearest inhabited districts to 
be impossible, in accordance with which notion he was unable 
to procure guides at any price. These are striking coincidences, 
and as illustrations of the prophecy important, but are not to 
be insistod on as constituting its direct fulfilment, for in that 
case the passage of these very travellers through the country 
would falsify the prediction which they are cited to confirm. 
The truth of the prophecy in this clause is really no more sus- 
pended on such facts, than that of the first clause and of the 
preceding verse upon the actual existence of bituminous streams 
and a sulphureous soil throughout the ancient Idumea. The 
whole is a magnificent prophetic picture, the fidelity of which, 
so far as it relates to ancient Edom, is notoriously attested by 
its desolation for a course of ages. 


1 1. Then shall possess it (as a heritage) the pelican and porcu- 
pine, the crane and crow shall dwell in it. And he (or one) shall 
stretch upon it the line of confusion and the stones of emptiness. Hav- 
ing declared that man should no longer pass through it, he now 
explains who shall be its inhabitants. These animals should 
not only occupy the land, but occupy it as the successors and 
to the exclusion of mankind. The essential idea is that of wild 
and solitary animals. (Compare ch. 13 : 21, 22. 14 : 23. Rev. 
18 : 2.) Here again a remarkable coincidence is furnished by 
the statements of travellers with respect to the number of wild 
birds in Edom. Mangles, while at Petra, describes the scream- 
ing of the eagles, hawks, and owls, seemingly annoyed at any 
one approaching their lonely habitation. Burckhardt speaks of 
Tafyle as frequented by an immense number of crows and of 
the birds called katta, which fly in such large flocks that the 
boys often kill two or three at a time merely by throwing a 
stick among them. The apparent inconsistency between this 
clause and the description of the country in the verse before it 
only shows that neither can be strictly taken, but that both are 
metaphorical predictions of entire desolation. In the next 
clause the same idea is expressed by an entire change of figure. 
The line meant is a measuring line, mentioned elsewhere not 
only in connection with building (Zech. 1 : 16), but also with 
destroying (2 Kings 21 : 13). The stones are stones used for 
weights (Deut. 25 : 13. Prov. 16:11), and here for plumb-line or 
plummet. The same figure is employed by Amos (7 : 7-9) to 
denote a moral test or standard, but in this case as a symbol of 
destruction. The plummet is here mentioned as a parallel to 
line, both together expressing the idea of exact and careful 
measurement. The sense of the whole metaphor may then be 
either that God has laid this work out for himself and will per- 
form it, or that in destroying Edom he will act with equity and 
justice, or that even in destroying he will proceed deliberately 
and by rule. 



12. Her caves and there is no one there (i. e. her uninhabited 
or empty caves) they will (still) call a kingdom, and all her chiefs 
will be cessation (i. e. cease to be). The great variety of expla- 
nations which have been given of this verse, and the harshness 
of construction with which most of them are chargeable, may 
serve as an excuse for the suggestion of a new one, not as cer- 
tainly correct, but as possibly entitled to consideration. All 
interpreters coincide in giving to the first noun, the sense of 
nobles, which it certainly has in several places. (See 1 Kings 
21:8, 11. Neh. 2 : 16. 4 : 14.) But in several others, it no less 
certainly means holes or caves. (See 1 Sam. 14 : 11. Job 30 : 6. 
Nah. 2:12.) Now it is matter of history, not only that Edom 
was full of caverns, but that these were inhabited, and that the 
aboriginal inhabitants, expelled by Esau, were expressly called 
JBorites, as being troglodytes or inhabitants of caverns (Gen. 14 : 
6. 36 : 20. Deut. 2 : 12, 22). This being the case, the entire 
depopulation of the country, and especially the destruction of 
its princes, might be naturally and poetically expressed by say- 
ing that the kingdom of Edom should be thenceforth a kingdom 
of deserted caverns. How appropriate such a description would 
be to the actual condition of the country, and particularly to its 
ancient capital, may be seen from Robinson's account of Petra 
(Palestine, II. pp. 514-537). 

13. And her palaces (or in her palaces) shall come up thorns, 
nettles and brambles in her fortresses. The natural consequence 
of her depopulation. The situation here described would of 
course be the resort of wild and solitary animals. And she 
shall be a home of wolves, a court (or grass-plot) for ostriches. 
The general sense is that of an enclosed and appropriated spot, 
a play-ground or dwelling-place. 

14. And wild (or desert) creatures shall (there) meet with howl- 
ing creatures. The verb sometimes means to meet or encoun- 


Aer in the sense of attacking (Ex. 4 : 24. Hos 13 : 8); but 
here it seems to have the general sense of falling in with. 
Xhese Jonely creatures, as they traverse Idumea, shall encoun- 
ter none but creatures like themselves. And the shaggy mon- 
itor shall call to his fellow. For the true sense of satyrs, 
see the comment on the plural form as it occurs in ch. 
13 : 21. The interpretation most consistent with itself and 
with the etymology is that given above, shaggy monsters, on the 
ground that it corresponds better with the general descriptive 
neaning which, as we have seen above, most probably belongs 
to the words in the preceding clause. If that clause speaks of 
wild and howling beasts, and not of any one class exclusively, 
it is more natural that this should speak of shaggy monsters 
generally than of goats. Only there reposes the night-monster 
and finds for herself a resting-place. If the terms used above rep- 
resent the animals occupying Idumea, first as belonging to the 
wilderness, then as distinguished by their fierce or melancholy 
cries, and then as shaggy in appearance, nothing can be more 
natural than that the fourth epithet should also be expressive 
of their habits as a class, and no such epithet could well be 
more appropriate than that of nocturnal or belonging to the 

1 5. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, 
and gather under her shadow : there shall the vultures also be 
gathered, every one with her mate. As to the particular species 
of animals referred to in this whole passage, there is no need 
of troubling ourselves much about them. The general sense 
evidently is, that a human population should be succeeded by 
wild and lonely animals, who should not only live but breed 
there, implying total and continued desolation. 

16. Seek ye out of the book of Jehovah and read. The most 
natural interpretation seems to be that which makes this an 




exhortation to compare the prophecy with the event, and which 
is strongly recommended by the fact that all the verbs are in 
the past tense, implying that the Prophet here takes his stand 
at a point of time posterior to the event The book may then 
be this particular prophecy, or the whole prophetic volume, or 
the entire scripture, without material change of sense. The 
persons addressed are the future witnesses of the event. One 
of them has not failed. This refers to the animals mentioned in 
the preceding verses, as signs of desolation. As if he had 
said, I predicted that Edom should be occupied by such and 
such creatures, and behold they are all here, not one of them 
is wanting. This is a lively and impressive mode of saying, 
the prediction is fulfilled. One another they miss not. The 
verb has here the sense of mustering or reviewing to discover 
who is absent, as in 1 Sam. 20 : 6. 25 : 15. For my mouth, it 
has commanded ; and his spirit, it has gathered them, i. e. the 
animals aforesaid. The last phrase is a more specific explana- 
tion of the general expression has commanded. The sudden 
change of person from my mouth to his spirit has led to various 
explanations. The simplest course is either to suppose that 
Jehovah speaks in one clause and the Prophet in the next, or 
that the Prophet really refers the command to his own mouth 
instrumen tally, but then immediately names the Divine Spirit 
as the efficient agent. This is the less improbable because the 
first clause of the verse, as we have seen, contains an appeal 
to his own written prediction. The Spirit of God is not 
merely his power but himself, with special reference to the 
Holy Ghost, as being both the author and fulfiller of the 

17. He too has cast the lot for them, and his hand has divided it 
to them by line. An evident allusion to the division of the land 
of Canaan, both by lot and measuring-line. {j3ee Numb. 
26 : 55, 56. Josh. 18 : 4-6 ) As Canaan was allotted to 


Israel, so Edom is allotted to these doleful creatures. Haying 
referred to the allotment as already past, he now describes the 
occupation as future and perpetual Forever shall they hold it 
as a heritage, to all generations shall they dwell therein. 


A great and glorious change is here described under the 
figure of a desert clothed with luxuriant vegetation, vs. 1, 2. 
The people are encouraged with the prospect of this change 
and with the promise of avenging judgments on their enemies, 
ts. 3, 4. The same change is then expressed, by a change of 
figure, as a healing of corporeal infirmities, vs. 5, 6. The for- 
mer figure is again resumed, and the wilderness described as 
free from all its wonted inconveniences, particularly those of 
barrenness and thirst, disappointment and illusion, painless- 
ness and beasts of prey, vs. 7-9. The whole prediction winds 
up with a promise of redemption, restoration, and endless 
blessedness, v. 10. 

The chapter is the description of a happy condition of the 
church after a period of suffering. Thus explained it may be 
considered as including various particulars, none of which can 
be regarded as its specific or exclusive subject. Without any 
change of its essential meaning, it may be applied to the resto- 
ration of the Jews from Babylon, to the vocation of the Gentiles, 
to the whole Christian dispensation, to the course of every in- 
dividual believer, and to the blessedness of heaven. The 
ground of this manifold application is not that the language 
of the passage is unmeaning or indefinite, but that there is a 
real and designed analogy between the various changes men- 
tioned, whifli brings them all within the natural scope of the 
same inspired description. 


1. Desert and waste shall rejoice (for) them, and, the wilder- 
ness shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. The construction of the 
pronoun in the first clause is obscure and doubtful. Some 
refer it to the animals mentioned at the close of ch. 34 ; some 
to the judgments there threatened against Edom ; some to the 
Jews returning from captivity. As the pronoun is not ex- 
pressed in any of the ancient versions, some explain it as a mere 
appendage to the verbal form, and translate simply, shall rejoice. 
The last word in the verse has been variously explained to 
mean the lily, the narcissus, the crocus, etc. The common ver- 
sion (rose) is not only quite as probable, but more familiar, and 
suggests more clearly the essential idea of beauty, 

2. (It shall) blossom, it shall blossom and rejoice ; yea, (with) 
joy and shouting ; or, yea, joy and shouting (there shall be). The 
glory of Lebanon is given unto it (the desert), the beauty of Car' 
mel and of Sharon. They (who witness this great change) shall 
see the glory of Jehovah, the beauty of our God. The same idea 
of complete and joyful change is again expressed by the same 
figure, but with greater fulness, the desert being here described 
as putting on and wearing the appearance of the spots most 
noted for luxuriant vegetation. 

3. Strengthen hands (now) sinking, and knees (now) tottering 
make firm. With the prospect of this glorious change the peo- 
ple are commanded to encourage themselves and one another. 
The hands and knees are here combined to express the powers 
of action and endurance. The participial forms represent the 
hands as actually hanging down, relaxed, or weakened, and the 
knees as actually giving way. The passage thus explained is 
far more expressive than if we make the participles adjectives, 
denoting a permanent quality or habitual condition. In itself, 
the language of this verse i8 applicable either to self-encourage- 
ment or to the consolation of others. There is no reason why 



the words should not be taken in their widest sense, as meaning, 
let despondency be exchanged for hope. That self-encourage- 
ment is not excluded may be learned from Paul's use of the words 
in that sense (Heb. 12 : 12). That mutual encouragement is not 
excluded, is sufficiently apparent from the following verse. 

4. Say ye to the hasty of heart (i. e. the impatient, those who 
cannot wait for the fulfilment of God's promise), Be firm, fear 
not ; behold your God (as if already present or in sight) ; ven- 
geance is coming, the retribution of God ; he (himself) is coming, 
and will save you. The connecting link between his vengeance 
and their safety is the destruction of their enemies. (Seeing it 
is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that 
trouble you. 2 Thess. 1 : 6.) This verse shows how the command 
in the one before it is to be obeyed, by suggesting, as topics of 
mutual encouragement, the vindicatory justice of God, and his 
certain interposition in behalf of his people. Hasty, i. e. impa- 
tient of delay in the execution of God's promises, includes 
the ideas of despondency and unbelieving fear. Compare the 
analogous expression in ch. 28 : 1 6, he that believeth will not make 
haste or be impatient. The words are really a promise of deliv- 
erance to God's people, and include, as the most important part 
of their contents, the unspeakable gift of Christ and his salvation. 

5, 6. Then (when God has thus come) shall the eyes of the blind 
be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall 
the lame leap (or bound) as an hart and the tongue of the dumb 
shall shout (for joy), because waters have burst forth in the wilder- 
ness and streams in the desert. The change in the condition of 
the people is now represented by another figure, the removal of 
corporeal infirmities. The reason assigned in this last clause 
for the joy to be expressed shows clearly that the miraculous 
removal of disease and the miraculous irrigation of the desert 
are intended to express one and the same thing. The essential 


idea in both cases is that of sudden and extraordinary change. 
The simple meaning of the passage is, that the divine interpo- 
sition which had just been promised should produce as wonder- 
ful a change in the condition of mankind, as if the blind were 
to receive their sight, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the 
lame to walk, and deserts to be fertilized and blossom as the 
rose. In the process of this mighty transmutation, miracles 
were really performed, both of a bodily and spiritual nature, 
but the great change which includes these includes vastly more. 
The original form of expression is not that they shall rejoice for 
waters shall burst forth, but that they shall rejoice because waters 
have burst forth already, the last event being spoken of as rela- 
tively past, i. e. as previous to the act of rejoicing which the 
future verb expresses. 

7. And the mirage shall become a pool (or the sand lake a 
water lake, the seeming lake a real one), and the thirsty land 
springs of water, (even) in the haunt of wolves, their lair, a court 
(or field) for reed and rush. The idea of complete and joyful 
change is still expressed by the transformation of a desert and 
the consequent removal of its inconveniences, among which the 
Prophet here particularly mentions the tantalizing illusions to 
which travellers in the wilderness are subject The first noun 
denotes the illusive appearance caused by unequal refraction in 
the lower strata of the atmosphere, and often witnessed both at 
sea and land, called in English looming, in Italian fata morgana, 
and in French mirage. In the deserts of Arabia and Africa, 
the appearance presented is precisely that of an extensive sheet 
of water, tending not only to mislead the traveller but to aggra- 
vate his thirst by disappointment. The phenomenon is well 
described by Quintius Ourtius in his Life of Alexander the 
Great. It is also referred to in the Koran. More deceitful 
than the mirage (or serab) is an Arabian proverb. Its intro- 
duction here adds a beautiful stroke to the description, not only 

806 Chapter xxxv. 

by its local propriety, but by its strict agreement with the 

8. And there shall be there a highway and a way ; and there 
thall not pass through (or over) it an unclean (thing or person) ; 
and it shall be for them (alone). Job (12 : 24) speaks of a wil- 
derness in which there is no way, and Jeremiah (18 : 15) of a way 
not cast up, to both which descriptions we have here a contrast. 
The comparison suggested is between a faint track in the sand 
and a solid artificial causeway. The desert shall cease not only 
to be barren but also to be pathless or impassable by reason of 
sand. The obvious meaning of the last clause is that the people 
of Jehovah shall themselves be holy. (Compare ch. 1 : 25. 4 : 3.) 
This is also the meaning of those scriptures which exclude from 
Zion (or the sanctuary) the Canaanite (Zech. 14:21), the uncir- 
eumcised (Ezek. 44 : 9), and the stranger. The pronoun them has 
no expressed antecedent in the sentence, and has been variously 
applied ; but the precise import of the original expression seems 
to be, that the highway shall belong exclusively to them for 
whose sake it was made, for whose use It was intended. 

9. There shall not be there a lion, and a ravenous beast shall not 
ascend it, nor be found there ; and (there) shall walk redeemed (ones). 
The wilderness, though no longer barren or pathless, might still 
be the resort of beasts of prey. The promised highway might 
itself be exposed to their incursions. But immunity from this 
inconvenience is here promised. For a similar promise, in a 
still more figurative dress, see Hosea 2:18, and for a descrip- 
tion of the desert as the home of deadly animals, Isaiah 30 : 6 
The primary allusion is no doubt to the highway described in 
the foregoing verse. Hence the phrase ascend it, i. e. from the 
level of the sands, through which the road is supposed to be 
cast up. These terms are intended to complete the great pro- 
phetic picture of a total change in the condition of the desert, 


under which general idea we may then include a great variety 
of suitable particulars, without however making any one of them 
the exclusive subject of the prophecy. 

10. And the ransomed of Jehovah shall return and come to Zion 
with shouting, and everlasting joy upon their head ; gladness and 
joy shall overtake (them), and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 
The whole series of promises is here summed up in that of res- 
toration and complete redemption. Zion is mentioned as the 
journey's end ; they shall not only move towards it but attain 
it. The words everlasting joy may either be governed by the 
preposition (with shouting and everlasting joy upon their head), 
or construed with the substantive verb understood (everlasting 
joy shall be upon their head). The latter construction seems to 
agree best with the Masoretic accents. In the last clause, joy 
and gladness may be either the subject or the object of the verb. 
The latter construction is given in the English Bible (they shall 
obtain joy and gladness) after the example of the Targum, Pe- 
shito, and Yulgate. In favour of the other, which is given in 
the Septuagint (xajaX^ipsrai atixovg), may be urged the analogy 
of Deut. 28 : 2 (all these blessings shall come on thee and overtake 
thee) and of the last clause of the verse, where sorrow and sighing 
are the subjects of the verb. " The highway before described 
not only leads to Zion the church below, but to the Zion above, 
to the heavenly glory; and all the redeemed, all that walk 
in this way, shall come thither ; at death their souls return to 
God that gave them, and in the resurrection their bodies 
shall return from their dusty beds and appear before God in 
Zion." (Gill ) The allusions to the Babylonian exile are cor- 
rectly explained upon the principle that minor and temporal 
deliverances were not only emblems of the great salvation but 
preparatory to it.